Outcry over teenager’s death


PETALING JAYA: The tragic story of a teenager, who killed herself after respondents to an online poll encouraged her to do so, has shattered Malaysians.

The case reflected the low awareness of mental health issues in the country, said Malaysian Psychiatric Association patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

He was referring to news reports that a 16-year-old girl in Sarawak allegedly jumped to her death on Monday after 69% of pollsters on her Instagram account supported the decision for her to kill herself.

Prior to her death, the teenager uploaded a post with the heading “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L” on Instagram Stories. D and L were largely taken to mean “die” and “live”.

Her Instagram account has since been flooded with messages of R.I.P.

Yesterday, Lee said an awareness campaign on mental health and an alert system to identify suicidal postings on social media must be developed.

“The government must train more counsellors and psychologists to help those suffering from depression and other mental problems.”

He said there was a need for a holistic public health approach to address the factors contributing to poor mental health, adding that the Health, Education and Youth and Sports Ministries must collaborate on this.

“The relevant agencies must also develop an alert system to enable people to notify concerned parties of suicidal postings on social media,” he said.

In the case of the teenager, Lee said there was a gap of about five hours from the time of her posting until her suicidal act, and that there was no alert system in place for intervention.

Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh also found it disturbing that 69% of the teenager’s Instagram followers had supported her desire to take her own life.

Those who had voted for her to die could be seen as having abetted the suicide, he said, citing a US

court that found a woman guilty of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging a victim to commit suicide.

He said since suicide is an offence in Malaysia, perhaps abetting one to commit suicide may be too.

“How some netizens could have actually condoned this is beyond me. Various questions arise from this unfortunate incident,” he said.

He wondered whether the girl would still be alive if netizens had discouraged her from killing herself, and whether she would have heeded the advice of netizens to seek professional help had they done so.

Ramkarpal, who is a lawyer, asked if the encouragement of those netizens had actually influenced her decision to take her own life.

He called for the case to be thoroughly investigated, adding that it should not be treated as an isolated incident.

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman also voiced his worry about the youths’ state of mental health.

“A national discussion must take place,” he said.

According to Reuters, Instagram’s Asia-Pacific head of communications Wong Ching Yee said the social platform had reviewed the teenager’s account, and that the poll on Instagram Stories at the end of its 24-hour cycle ended with a 88% votes for “L” (live).

However, district police chief Aidil Bolhassan told Reuters that the poll numbers could have changed when the news began to spread about the teenager’s death.

Reuters reported that Instagram extended its sympathies to the teenager’s family.

“We urge everyone to use our reporting tools and to contact emergency services if they see any behaviour that puts people’s safety at risk,” Wong said.

The teenager’s death has caught the attention of the international press such as the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and British newspaper The Guardian.

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