SINGAPORE – To tackle the issue of youth suicide, a forum was held at the Common Ground Civic Centre in Bedok North on Saturday, ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday.
The 15th Global Youth Leaders’ Summit focused on suicide prevention, and was themed #BeTheLight. It was attended by about 450 young people.
The Samaritans of Singapore had earlier said that suicide remained the leading cause of death in the Republic for those aged 10 to 29 for the fourth consecutive year in 2022. It made up 38.7 per cent of all causes of death within this age group in Singapore.
There were 476 suicides reported in the country in 2022, which was the highest figure since 2000.
Mr Delane Lim, 38, founder of charity Character and Leadership Academy (CLA), which organises the annual summit, contemplated suicide when he was 25 because of work, health and relationship issues.
But a WhatsApp message from a friend, asking if he was free for coffee, saved his life. Mr Lim, who is now married without children, said: “Sometimes, young people may not be comfortable talking to mental health professionals. And many times, when you have a problem, you don’t really tell your parents – you probably tell your friends.” At the event, CLA unveiled a toolkit to equip schools and young people with suicide prevention guidelines and tips to cope with mental health struggles.
It includes a test that youth can do to find out what their automatic negative thoughts are, and an online certification course focusing on how to spot warning signs and help someone who is suicidal.
The toolkit was developed by Mr Lim and his colleagues after conducting their HappYouth annual survey of 286 young people across Singapore, about their thoughts on mental health issues among their peers and in school. Pivotal Youth, a youth leadership training organisation, also conducted a three-hour peer support training workshop at the forum on Saturday.
Addressing students at the summit, Minister of State for Education Gan Siow Huang talked about a friend of hers who ended his life.
“Till today, my friends and I are still unable to understand what we could have done differently, how we could have maybe provided more light, more paths, more hope,” she said.
She added that she worries about the well-being of her three children, aged 11, 16 and 20, particularly when they get upset over friendship problems.
Ms Gan highlighted the importance of developing the skills and resilience to cope with difficult situations.
She said: “It’s okay to be mentally overwhelmed sometimes. But more importantly, how do you deal with it? At which point do you have to seek treatment? We hope we can create better awareness through workshops like these.”
Shaney (not her real name), a 17-year-old polytechnic student who did not attend the event, recalled those dark times when suicide seemed the only way out of her troubles.
She had been bullied and shamed on social media in 2020 by some classmates in Secondary 2. Experiencing a deep sense of social isolation, she contemplated self-harm that year.
But she saw a therapist on the advice of a good friend, and has been recovering since then.
Three years on, Shaney hopes everyone will remember that they are not alone in facing hardship.
She said: “Reach out to someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, family member or professional. And always hold on to the hope that things can improve.
“Talk to a friend. You might not know what they are going through.”
Tips to cope with mental health struggles
Calm down Breathe deeply when you panic, or walk away from the situation if you can.
Observe your emotions Try to recognise the emotions you are feeling. Once you have identified a negative thought, ask yourself whether there is concrete evidence supporting that thought or if it is based on assumptions or experiences that may no longer be relevant.
Reframe negative thoughts Look for alternative ways to interpret the situation that are more constructive and uplifting. For example, if your negative thought is “I’m not good enough for this job”, reframe it as “I have the skills and experience needed for this job, and I can learn and grow in the role”.
Seek support Engage people who promote positivity and personal growth, and read books and listen to podcasts that do the same.
- Source: Character and Leadership Academy’s HappYouth programme
Helplines Mental well-being
Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788
Chat, Centre of Excellence for Youth Mental Health: 6493-6500/1
TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252
TOUCH Care Line (for seniors, caregivers): 6804-6555
Care Corner Counselling Centre: 6353-1180
Counselling and Care Centre: 6536-6366
carey.carecorner.org.sg (for those aged 13 to 25)
limitless.sg/talk (for those aged 12 to 25)