SINGAPORE – To tackle the issue of youth suicides, ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday, a forum was held at the Common Ground Civic Centre in Bedok North on Saturday.
Suicide prevention was the focus of the 15th Global Youth Leaders’ Summit, themed #BeTheLight, and attended by about 450 youths.
The Samaritans of Singapore had earlier said suicide remained the leading cause of death for youths aged 10 to 29 for the fourth consecutive year in 2022. It made up 38.7 per cent of all deaths within this age group.
There were 476 suicides reported in Singapore in 2022, which was the highest since 2000.
Mr Delane Lim, 38, founder of charity Character and Leadership Academy (CLA) which organises the annual summit, contemplated suicide due to work, health and relationship issues when he was 25.
But a WhatsApp message from a friend, asking if he was free for coffee, saved his life.
Now married without children, he 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, the CLA unveiled a toolkit to equip students with suicide prevention guidelines and tips to cope with mental health struggles.
It includes a test students can do to find out what their automatic negative thoughts are, and an online certification course on how to spot warning signs and help someone who is suicidal.
The toolkit was developed by Mr Lim and his colleagues through the HappYouth Annual Survey, done with 286 youths across Singapore on their thoughts related to 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 on Saturday.
Addressing students at the event, Minister of State for Education Gan Siow Huang remembered a friend who ended his life.
She said: “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 added she worries about the well-being of her three children aged 11, 16, and 20, particularly when her youngest daughter came home crying after falling out with her friend.
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), 17, a polytechnic student, didn’t attend the symposium but 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 also 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 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
1. Calm down
Breathe deeply when you panic, or walk away from the situation if you can.
2. Observe your emotions
Try to recognise the emotions you are feeling. Once you’ve identified a negative thought, ask yourself whether there’s concrete evidence supporting that thought or if it’s based on assumptions or experiences that may no longer be relevant.
3. 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.”
4. Seek support
Engage people, books and podcasts that promote positivity and personal growth.
Source: Character and Leadership Academy’s HappYouth programme
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)
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