‘A kind word and to know they matter’

Befrienders Kuala Lumpur patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said that suicide is preventable.

SOMETIMES, what it takes to stop someone from commiting suicide is a listening ear.

Some people have suicidal thoughts as they believe they have come to the end of the road, said Mental Health Advisory Council member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

“They want to end their agony and suffering. They think there is no one to help them. The loneliness makes things worse.

“What they need is someone to talk with,” he said.

Lee, who is the patron of Befrienders Kuala Lumpur, added that when a friend or family member shows depression or suicidal symptoms, concern is what they need most.

“Suicidal thoughts can occur to anybody anywhere. People feeling suicidal should not be segregated,” he said.

He stressed that suicide intervention efforts needed to be stepped up, especially in view of the societal stress created by the pandemic.

For comparison, the number of suicides between January and May this year (468) was 77% of the number of suicides throughout the whole of 2019 (609 cases) before the pandemic hit.

Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department director Datuk Seri Abd Jalil Hassan said that between January 2019 and December last year, Johor saw the most suicides at 101.

But from January to May this year, Selangor recorded the highest number at 117.

“From 2019 to May this year, 1,708 people committed suicide and of those, 281 were men while 1,427 were women.

“Of these, 872 involved individuals aged between 15 and 18 years old, 668 involved those aged from 19 to 40 and the remainder are of other age groups.

“Investigations found that the three main causes of suicides were family problems, and emotional and financial distress,” he said.

Pertubuhan Kebajikan Sneham Malaysia founder and director Datuk Dr Florence Sinniah said statistics showed that 70% of those who committed suicide had reached out to family and friends beforehand.

The society dedicates itself to suicide prevention.

“Family members sometimes dismiss the signs and conversations because they do not expect their loved ones to take their own lives,”’ she said.

“People worry about the stigma attached to having a mental health problem.

“But we do not want to lose them just because they feel embarrassed to reach out.

“Not everyone can cope with stress but that does not make us weak. People just need a kind word and to know they matter,” she said.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Ng Yin Ping said the public could help to prevent suicides by learning about the warning signs and how to seek appropriate professional help.

“Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are okay or if they are actually having suicidal thoughts.

“Listen without judging and encourage people who are hurting to seek help. Even better will be to offer to accompany the person to seek help.

“Do not promise to keep their suicidal behaviour a secret because you care for them and need to ensure they receive help.

“Some warning signs of suicide include speaking about death or ways of dying, a sudden improvement in mood after being depressed for a long time and the sudden giving away of prized possessions,” she said.

Dr Ng, who is the vice chairman of I-Life Suicide Prevention Association, added that suicide- related information when reported in an unsafe manner such as the use of stigmatising terms, portraying suicide as mono-causal or mentioning details of suicide methods, could be harmful.

“They can trigger traumatic responses and potentially lead to copycat suicidal behaviour.

“The media, policymakers and even celebrities can play a part in educating the public on seeking therapy,” she said.

Dr Ng, who has been in the field for more than 10 years, pointed out that the causes of suicide are multi-factorial and not due to a single reason.

“Factors leading to suicide include fears of contracting Covid-19, economic recession, inappropriate media reporting on suicide and also MCO-related restrictions which may lead to loneliness, loss of income, loss of coping mechanisms and reduced access to community support.

“There are a lot of online resources on suicide prevention and mental health such as i-Life Suicide Prevention Association and Laman Minda Facebook page.

“The most important thing is to acknowledge when we are not feeling okay.

“Seeking help is not a sign of weakness or lack of spiritual faith.

“It is a sign of courage,” she said.

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