ACCORDING to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2017,10% of secondary school students between 13 and 17 said they have had suicidal ideation in the past 12 months.
A staggering 6.9% had attempted to take their own lives at least once over the same period.
In an effort to address the problem, Befrienders KL has launched a booklet titled “You Can Help Prevent Suicide” at Institut Koperasi Malaysia in Petaling Jaya.
The booklet will be distributed to secondary schools, especially students in lower secondary as they are at high risk of getting suicidal ideation.
Befrienders KL patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said suicide ideation was an inner cry for help but the signs were not always observable.
“I believe people who are struggling with suicidal ideation need to be given assistance and support.
“With the right kind of support, many suicides can be prevented, ” he said.
Befrienders KL’s vision of “A world in which fewer people feel the need to end their own lives” resonates strongly with Lee who hopes to ensure people in distress receive the support they need.
Lee added that the number of youths facing mental health issues had doubled since the start of the decade.
“The numbers are troubling, with one in 10 individuals (with mental health issues) in 2011 becoming one in five in 2016.
“By 2020, mental illness is expected to be the second biggest health problem affecting Malaysians after heart disease.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed suicide as the second leading cause of death among young people (13 to 29) worldwide, after road accidents.
“Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said depression was the primary mental disability among Malaysians.
“In a Bernama report, the DPM said mental illness could cost the country about RM105.47bil in 2030, ” Lee said, adding that suicide cases often go unreported due to social taboos.
WHO’s website stated that for each adult who dies by suicide, there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.
“Befrienders KL has experienced an increase in the number of contacts received from people who were distressed over the past five years.
“Last year, 35% of those who contacted Befrienders KL were younger than 21.
“Many of them contacted us through email and were highly suicidal, ” Lee said.
According to research, people who are suicidal would normally give out warning signs and try reaching out to someone for help.
However, there is always a fear of being labelled as “wanting attention”.
There is still stigma and a lack of awareness when it comes to issues related to mental disorder and suicide.
“Suicide is preventable and suicide prevention starts with recognising warning signs and taking them seriously.
“When a friend or loved one says that they are feeling suicidal, listen to them without judgement.
“They should be encouraged to seek further support by calling the Befrienders or seeing a mental health professional, ” said Lee.
He said the government should not consider suicide a criminal act under Section 309 of the Penal Code.
“The imprisonment of those who attemp suicide is totally unnecessary.
“By right, we should give them a helping hand and view them as people who have psychiatric problems, ” he added.
Befrienders KL chairman Justin Gerard Victor said while the government does not often prosecute those who attempt suicide, the existence of the law makes people believe it is a crime.
Justin Gerard added that they were taking the initiative to produce a booklet as a guide for those in the high-risk group.
“The Health and Education ministries also support our initiative.
“We need more sponsors so that we can distribute this booklet all over Malaysia and publish it in other languages, ” he said.
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