MALAYSIA has seen a rise in suicide attempts and deaths over the course of the first movement control order last year.
According to police statistics, the resulting MCO due to the Covid-19 pandemic saw 266 cases between March 18 and Oct 30. And, among those rescued was a 15-year-old girl in Kelantan.Worryingly, suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in the country, a recent report revealed.
The report, conducted over three months, reported that one in four of the 266 suicide cases was committed by teenagers aged between 15 and 18.
Debt issues, family and marriage problems, relationship breakdowns and work pressures were the reasons cited in the “Youth Suicide in Malaysia” report.
The report, which highlighted the status of youth suicide in Malaysia and provided policy recommendations for its prevention, was published on Feb 19 by Relate Mental Health Malaysia (Relate) in collaboration with the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas).
Relate founder Dr Chua Sook Ning and Ideas senior executive Vaisnavi Rao said the risk factors of suicide include age (youth), gender (men), psychological factors (depression, anxiety, stress and interpersonal difficulties), and social factors (ethnicity and unemployment).
“There is a lack of public awareness of suicide, its risk factors and evidence-based suicide campaigns. Unethical media reporting of suicide is an obstacle in correcting misconceptions and debunking myths.
“While the effectiveness of existing platforms for prevention of youth suicide remains unclear, the criminalisation of attempted suicide has further hindered the development of a comprehensive suicide prevention strategy through social and public health interventions, ” they said, noting that attempted suicide remains a criminal act in Malaysia under Section 309 of the Penal Code despite evidence showing that criminalisation reduces help-seeking, and hinders the collection of accurate data, and the development and implementation of effective suicide prevention strategies.
High prevalence of mental health problems among those between the ages of 16 and 29 needs to be addressed through mental health interventions as young people are more vulnerable to suicide as the teenage years are a critical developmental period of transitioning from childhood to adulthood, they stressed.“The rising number of suicide during the pandemic has become increasingly worrying. A survey carried out by (a Kuala Lumpur-based think tank) during the MCO found that 48% and 45% of respondents reported high levels of anxiety and depression, respectively. “Not surprisingly, there has been a significant increase in the use of emotional support hotline services in the country. In 2020,40% of callers between January and July expressed suicidal thoughts, compared to 34% in 2019.
“According to the Health Ministry, a total of 465 suicide attempt cases received treatment in the ministry’s hospitals between January to June 2020.
“There is an urgent need for Malaysia to view youth suicide as a social, economic and public health issue that requires a long-term comprehensive strategy.”
While youth suicide caused economic losses of RM346.2mil in 2019, with an estimate of 382 young men and 141 young women ending their lives by suicide the same year, the value of each of these individuals can never be measured in monetary terms alone.
*Those in need of help can contact: Befrienders at befrienders.org.my/centre-in-malaysia or call 03-7627 2929; Talian Kasih at 15999 (24 hours); and Lifeline (Mandarin) at 03-4265 7995.