PETALING JAYA: Befrienders, a non-governmental organisation offering emotional support to the distressed and suicidal, has called on the Government to create a central database to track suicides and attempted suicides.
Currently, Befrienders can only glean trends of suicidal behaviour from anecdotes from the media, medical professionals, small-scale studies and their own experience, said Befrienders Kuala Lumpur chairman Zilfalila Rahman.
More accurate and complete information was needed if the nation wished to look at how it could address the problem and identify the highest risk groups, she said during the launch of Befrienders Outreach – Suicide Prevention in the Community, a nationwide campaign to create awareness about coping with stress.
She said that in view of Malaysia’s cultural and religious sensitivities, the task needed to be handled carefully and tactfully and without criminalising the suicidal person.
Health Ministry parliamentary secretary S. Sothinathan said that there was suicide data in the country – with all cases recorded in hospitals – but it was not formally compiled.
He said there were constraints in compiling such data because many cases were unreported owing to social taboo or fear of being charged with criminal attempt.
However, Sothinathan said, suicide data would be included in a database on intentional and unintentional violence before the end of the year.
In Malaysia, the suicide rate was estimated at eight per 100,000 in the 1980s.
However, it was now believed to be between nine and 12 per 100,000 and this did not include suicides that went unreported, said Sothinathan, who represented Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng at the campaign launch.
He said that suicide “is preventable”.
“The Health Ministry recognises it as a health and social problem,” he said, adding that it required an integrated and multi-sectoral approach.
Former Inspector-General of Police Tun Hanif Omar, when asked whether the law that treated suicide as a punishable crime should be revamped, said it did not matter whether the law was removed as it was currently not enforced.
Hanif, who is also patron of Befrienders Kuala Lumpur, said the criminalising of suicide was traceable to religion that put suicide as a cardinal sin.
For more information about the campaign, call 03-7956 8144/45.