No better time than now
By N. Fields, Aug 2021
Suicide. The act of killing oneself intentionally. According to an article published by the World Health Organization (WHO), one in 100 deaths is caused by suicide.  Perhaps it is also apt here to highlight that year after year, more lives are being lost to suicide than to diseases, armed conflicts and murder. This is concerning.
In Singapore, suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged between 10-29, meaning the youth and young adult age group. In 2020, there were in fact, 5 times more deaths from suicide compared to transport related accidents (Data and information obtained from the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS)).  More individuals are at risk of ending their lives, due to factors such as mental health conditions, serious or incurable health conditions, trauma, prolonged stress factors and a family history of suicides. The ongoing pandemic has further added on to these risk factors. Unemployment, loneliness, relationship related problems, significantly higher stress levels from school or work are just to name a few. Affected groups include the elderly, youths, persons with disabilities and couples. Consequently, depending on the weight of the stressors and the severity of the situation at large, it really takes a toll on one’s body and also his or her mental health. An unfavourable outcome would be the heightened desire in an individual at risk’s mind, to take his or her own life. Suicide attempt survivors may also face much higher risks of ending their lives, considering the failed attempt from before. We must prevent this as much as possible.
Suicidal ideations and thoughts can be a recurrent and pending thought in an individual at risk’s mind over a period of time, or a flashing thought. Pending thoughts await action, meaning it will only be a matter of time before an individual at risk takes action to end their life – through various means. A flashing thought would mean the thought of possibly taking their own life comes to the individual’s mind, but it does go away. Knowing this, it is of paramount importance that close friends and family members pick up the warning signs and possibly silent cries for help, in a timely and sharp manner. Timing is a crucial factor as any delay could mean a life lost.
Warning signs include unusual words, actions and behaviour, mood changes and perhaps withdrawn social behaviours. The list is non exhaustive. More importantly, one may appear to be fine and ordinary, “usual” in their daily behaviour when in reality, they mask their feelings and keep silent about their intentions of ending their own lives. Hence, it is necessary to show care, to check in on another’s well being, feelings and emotions. Always make it a point to inquire. This applies to loved ones, close friends, colleagues, schoolmates and even neighbours. A simple “You alright? Are you feeling okay?” could potentially save a life.
Despite this, community carers may hesitate to help individuals at risk at this juncture due to feelings of fear, apprehension and uncertainty. One may not know how best to emotionally engage and support persons who face suicidal ideations and know the right words to say to them. Furthermore, one may be unaware of the resources, helplines and kinds of professional help available, in order to direct these individuals to them.
Fret not. These concerns are certainly valid and many experience the same difficulties. However, this should not stop you from preventing a suicide attempt.
How can you engage, help and support someone who has suicidal ideations? Listen and provide a safe space for them to be vulnerable enough to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Validate their pain and struggles. Inquire if they may be contemplating suicide. This is crucial and don’t be afraid to ask this question! Find lifelines for them such as loved ones and close friends, remind them of their hobbies and interests, goals and dreams. Lastly, engage professional help by convincing, encouraging and accompanying them to speak with counsellors, professionals. Provide immediate help by ensuring that they call the National Care Hotline, Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) helpline or Institute of Mental Health (IMH) crisis line.
What happens after a suicide, then? First off, you should never blame yourself for failing to save the person’s life. It is ultimately their personal decision to end their life. Secondly, no one is ever prepared for the sudden loss after a suicide happens. Lastly, know that you are not facing these overwhelming emotions alone and there is support and help available for you. Resources, information, counselling, emotional support and support groups are readily available to aid you in your healing and recovery process – no matter how long it takes.
The nature of suicide is that it is abrupt, sudden. A life is simply lost ahead of one’s time. For every life being lost to suicide, the individual leaves behind family and friends who grieve over the person, the memories, the unspoken words, the regrets. Those left behind may experience feelings of guilt and blame themselves for being unable to stop the individual from taking their life. Suicides are preventable. You can play a part in suicide prevention.
There is no better time than now. This is an urgent call to action for us to be more aware and alert, place our worries aside, never brush off the possible warning signs of suicide, and save precious lives before they are lost.
About the writer
Fields strongly believes that support of the community is paramount to the efforts taken in suicide prevention. She has had close friends struggle with suicidal ideations and realised that people have the power to influence or change one’s decision to take their own life. N. Fields is committed this cause of suicide prevention and continues to author articles regarding this topic, hoping to destigmatize suicide, saving more lives.