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Thursday November 24, 2011

Up to five suicide attempts daily

Every day, four or five people in Singapore attempt suicide. At least one succeeds.

Doctors and medical social workers say those trying to kill themselves appear to be getting younger.

The problem used to affect mainly the elderly, but in recent years it has spread to those in their 30s and 40s, said Esther Lim, head of medical social services at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

For them, the trigger is often failed relationships and huge debts. The rate of suicide atte­mpts is based on information from hospitals.

Most suicidal people consume large doses of medications. A few try to slash their wrists.

Others are stopped before they have the chance to hurt themselves. Professor Kua Ee Heok, a senior psychiatrist at the NUH, believes fewer elderly people are trying to kill themselves than in the past.

This, he thinks, is due to grea­ter ­aware­n­ess among general practitioners that older pa­tie­nts who complain of headaches or sleep­less nights are often really suffering from depression.

He hopes to reduce the elderly suicide rate by starting a programme in Jurong that aims to keep old people active .

Lim added that the factors which trigger suicide in old people tend to be loneliness and pain from illness or disability. “Sometimes, pain can be unbearable,” she said. “Or they get frustrated when they can’t do what they used to be able to do.”

For Madam Tan (not her real name), it was lone­­liness and feeling abandoned by her five chil­d­ren that made her try to kill herself two months ago.

She had attempted suicide after failing to sleep for two weeks.

She went to several doctors for sleeping pills. She then took them all in one go “so I could go to sleep and never wake up”.

Fortunately, one of her grand-daughters was visiting at the time. She was taken to hospitalto get her stomach pumped.

She was then seen by a psychiatrist who prescribed five different medicines.

She now lives with her third son and her two grand-daughters . She is now happier and has no problem sleeping. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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