The suicide rate in Singapore is a worrying trend. According to the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority, 429 and 361 individuals took their own lives in 2016 and 2017 respectively. These are alarming numbers and do not include suicide attempts that do not result in deaths. Suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 10-29 in Singapore.
With the tragic and irreversible impact of a suicide, we often look back at an episode in hindsight and wonder whether warning signs were missed and more could have been done. While it is unwise to profile and stereotype persons with suicide risks, it is important to be familiar with the common warning signs of suicide risk.
Common Warning Signs of Suicide Risk
- Feelings of desperation, hopelessness and/or distress
- Thoughts of suicide and/or self-harm
- Writing about and/or planning for death
- Self-harming behaviours (e.g., self-cutting)
- Increased risk-taking and/or reckless behaviours
- Loss of interest in school or work
- Loss of interest in favourite activities and/or hobbies
- Difficulty concentrating
- Neglect of personal appearance and hygiene
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Changes in eating habits
- Changes in sleep pattern (e.g., insomnia, hypersomnia, or disrupted sleep)
- Substance use/abuse (e.g., alcohol, drugs)
Our own feelings and intuition could also tell us whether a person may be at risk of suicide. If you are interacting with someone and you sense from him or her feelings of desperation, hopelessness or emotional distress, it could be warning signs of suicide risk. Understanding a person’s life situation and circumstances can also increase your awareness of possible suicide risk. Abuse, losses (real or perceived) and experiencing a recent suicide episode of someone close can increase a person’s suicide risk.
What can we do for someone who might be having thoughts of suicide
- Recognise the early warning signs of suicide
- Do not take suicidal ideation lightly
- Lead a listening ear. Listen to understand.
- Talk to the person to find out the reasons and intensity of his or her suicidal ideation
- Find out what keeps the person going and try to add to that list
- Do not leave the person with suicidal thoughts alone
- Remove any access to potential means of self-harm and suicide
- Encourage and support the person to seek professional help
- Approach organisations and communities that can help
What can you do for yourself if you are feeling suicidal
- Approach others and seek help. Do not give up even
- when others reject you.
- Talk about it with people you are close to
- Help others identify the warning signs that you need help
- Share your experience in a supportive environment
- Join supportive organizations
- Remove potential means of suicide and self-harm (e.g. lock up knives, get rid of ropes)
- Enhance your coping skills and resources