In recent news, it has been reported that Singapore is grappling with its highest suicide rate in two decades. Suicide rates in Singapore rose by 26% from 378 in 2022 to a whopping 476 in 2022. This concerning trend demands immediate attention from the government, mental health professionals, and society as a whole. The factors contributing to this distressing situation are multifaceted and complex, necessitating a comprehensive and compassionate response to tackle this pressing issue head-on.
Why is suicide rate on the rise in Singapore?
When suicide rate fell in 2021, many thought we are doing better with the brute of COVID behind us. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health worldwide, and Singapore is no exception. The implementation of social distancing measures and quarantine protocols has led to increased feelings of loneliness, isolation, and reduced social support. Limited social interactions and reduced opportunities for face-to-face connection have negatively impacted mental health, particularly among those who live alone or have limited social networks.
The economic repercussions of the pandemic, including job losses, pay cuts, and financial instability, have added to individuals’ stress levels and anxiety. Concerns about job security, financial stability, and meeting basic needs have been significant sources of distress. Those in the tourism as well as food and beverage industry were badly affected.
With all of that behind, many expected Singapore to do better on the mental health front. It is unclear why suicide rate was particularly high in 2022. The topic of suicide is complex and multifaceted, and it is difficult to attribute it to a single cause.
Youth are at highest risk
You may be shocked to learn that suicide remains the leading cause of death for youths aged 10 to 29. It’s disheartening to know that approximately one-third of all deaths in this age group in Singapore are attributed to suicides. This alarming trend emphasises the urgent need for comprehensive mental health support and suicide prevention initiatives specifically targeted at young Singaporeans.
Several factors contribute to the prevalence of youth suicide in Singapore, including academic stress, societal pressure, mental health challenges, and a lack of awareness and understanding surrounding mental well-being. It’s important to address these issues by implementing effective strategies that focus on mental health education, early intervention, and accessible support services.
A national study published last year revealed that one in three youths experienced mental health symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, and loneliness. To combat youth suicide, Singapore has taken steps to raise awareness and provide mental health resources. The government has implemented various initiatives, including school-based mental health programs, helplines, and community support networks. Additionally, mental health advocacy organisations and community groups play a vital role in spreading awareness, destigmatising mental health issues, and providing support to vulnerable young adults.
Preventing youth suicide requires a collective effort from the government, educational institutions, healthcare professionals, families, and the wider community. Together, we can raise awareness, provide support, and prioritise mental health, aiming to reduce the incidence of youth suicide and create a society where young individuals feel valued, supported, and empowered to seek help when needed.
Mental health is a global problem
Singapore is not alone in its fight against mental health challenges. Across the globe, mental health has become a significant public health concern, and many countries are working to address this issue.
In Korea, the suicide rate of 25 per 100,000 is one of the highest in the world. Similarly, Japan has also experienced a significant suicide rate of 18 per 100,000. While Singapore’s suicide death, estimated at 8-9 per 100,000, is comparative lower, it is a cause for concern.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises suicide as a major public health issue. Each year, nearly 800,000 people worldwide die by suicide. It is a leading cause of death among young people.
WHO also emphasises that suicides are preventable. To address this urgent concern, the WHO advocates for a multisectoral approach to suicide prevention. This approach involves collaboration between different sectors such as health, education, labor, and social services. By working together, these sectors can develop and implement strategies that target the complex factors contributing to suicide.
What is Singapore doing about the mental health crisis?
The Mental Health Masterplan, launched in 2012, outlines the strategic direction for mental health services in Singapore. The plan focuses on enhancing accessibility and affordability of mental health services, promoting mental well-being, strengthening community support, and improving mental health literacy.
To enhance accessibility, the government has increased the capacity and capabilities of mental health services. Community Wellness Clinic, operated by Institute of Mental Health, provides mental healthcare services such as psychiatry, psychology and counselling services to residents at Queenstown and Geylang. Efforts have also been made to integrate mental health into primary healthcare, making it easier for individuals to seek early intervention and treatment.
Singapore has also prioritised mental health education and awareness. Initiatives such as the “Beyond the Label” campaign aim to reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions and encourage open conversations. Educational programs are conducted in schools, workplaces, and the community to promote mental well-being and provide resources for individuals facing mental health challenges.
By focusing on prevention, early intervention, and support, Singapore’s mental health agenda aims to improve the overall well-being of its population. Through collaborative efforts between the government, healthcare professionals, community organisations, and individuals, Singapore is working towards a society that prioritises mental health, provides effective support, and fosters a culture of understanding and resilience.
What can we do to help those in psychological distress?
Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility. We may encounter people with suicidal thoughts when you least expect it. By staying informed and prepared, you have the potential to make a significant impact and even save a life. Remember, suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility, and your actions can play a crucial role in supporting those in need. Stay vigilant and ready to offer a helping hand when it’s needed the most.
If someone expresses thoughts of suicide or exhibits warning signs, do not dismiss or ignore them. Take them seriously and understand that they may be in immediate danger. Stay with them and listen actively. Be present for the person in distress. Show empathy, listen without judgment, and allow them to express their feelings. Let them know that you are there to support them and that their emotions are valid.
If there are any immediate means of self-harm, such as weapons or medications, remove them from the person’s access. Ensure their safety by creating a secure environment. Encourage the person to reach out to trusted friends, family members, or support helplines. Help them identify a network of people who can provide emotional support and be available to listen when they need it.
Encourage the person to seek professional help from mental health experts, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, or counsellors. Offer assistance in finding appropriate resources, scheduling appointments, or accompanying them to these sessions.
Keep in touch with the person regularly, even after the immediate crisis has passed. Show ongoing support and check on their well-being. Let them know that you are there for them in the long term.
Supporting someone in distress can be emotionally challenging. Reach out to your own support network or seek professional guidance to help manage your emotions and provide the best support possible.
Exercise can help with depression
In a recent extensive study, researchers investigated the relationship between exercise and depression. The systematic review analysed an impressive 1,039 trials and involved over 100,000 participants. The findings were striking: exercise has a significant impact on depression, anxiety, and psychological distress.
What’s more, the study emphasised the crucial role of exercise intensity. Higher-intensity workouts were associated with greater improvements in mental health. This suggests that challenging yourself and pushing beyond your comfort zone during exercise can yield optimal benefits for your psychological well-being.
Another study, also conducted this year, echoed the notion that exercise can be a powerful remedy for depression. In fact, this study went as far as comparing the effectiveness of exercise to psychotherapy and medication. The results revealed that exercise is slightly more effective than psychological interventions and significantly more efficacious than medication in treating depression.
These findings highlight the immense potential of exercise as a valuable tool in managing and alleviating symptoms of depression and related conditions. Incorporating regular exercise into your routine, particularly at higher intensities, can be a powerful step towards improving your mental health and overall well-being.
Suicide is preventable
With the right support, resources, and awareness, we can work together to reduce the occurrence of suicide and provide help to those in need. It starts with recognising the signs, reaching out to individuals who may be struggling, and offering a listening ear. By promoting mental health, fostering a supportive community, and connecting individuals with appropriate professional help, we can make a significant impact in preventing suicide.
Remember, even small acts of kindness and support can have a significant impact on someone who is contemplating suicide. Your caring presence and willingness to listen can provide them with hope, validation, and the reassurance that they are not alone on their journey toward healing and recovery.
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