PETALING JAYA: Suicide among teenagers aged 13 to 17 is on an upward trend, with thoughts of suicide rising from 7.9% in 2012 to 10% in 2017, the Health Ministry’s National Health and Morbidity Study found.
Also up is the prevalence of suicidal planning among youths, rising from 6.4% in 2012 to 7.3% in 2017, while suicide attempts also increased from 6.8% in 2012 to 6.9% in 2017, according to Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
“According to the World Health Organization, suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the world, and the second leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 29 years, ” said Dr Noor Hisham in a World Suicide Prevention Day address yesterday.
“For each victim, it is estimated that 20 family members or friends will (also) experience emotional, social and economic impact, ” he said.
This year’s commemorative event took on the theme “Working Together to Prevent Suicide” by focusing on smart partnerships among government agencies and non-governmental agencies.
Dr Noor Hisham said this collaborative effort is important because the factors behind suicide extend beyond health issues: often a combination of mental disorders, substance abuse, psychosocial problems in the family, life tragedies, relationship problems, and financial problems.
However, he maintained that suicide is preventable, adding that members of the community can help when they see someone experiencing an emotional crisis, signs of depression or suicidal tendencies.
“Take their concerns seriously; take the time to hear their complaints; take care of them and give them social support.”
“If things don’t improve, help them get specialist treatments or connect them with existing services, ” he said.
Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry provides screening and treatment for mental health conditions in 60 government hospitals, 1,001 primary health clinics and 25 community mental health centres (Mentari).
“The Health Ministry will continue to enhance cooperation while welcoming various agencies to actively promote mental health promotion activities, ” he said, urging the media and the public to be responsible in sharing information about suicide.
According to Befrienders KL, the organisation has been receiving more calls and emails from youths.
Its chairman Justin Victor said while the Education Ministry has been carrying out screening in schools for depression, anxiety and stress, more support from the public is still needed.
“More preventive programmes are being planned to instil resilience in youth, including engaging parents and the public in mental healthcare, ” he said.
“Many of the people who get in touch with The Befrienders are now more willing to openly share their difficulties in struggling with suicidal thoughts, mental illnesses as well as emotional pain from a variety of life problems.
“A stigma nevertheless remains for many in reaching out to get help and in talking about mental health issues and suicide in personal or public conversations, ” he said.
He urged the public to talk about mental health issues and suicide more openly, show compassion for those in distress, and to question the stigma associated with suicidal behaviour and mental health problems.
“It is ok and good to seek professional mental health care. Talking about it won’t ‘cause’ anyone to be suicidal; instead it gives them relief that they are allowed to let it out, and that they are taken seriously, ” he said.
Those suffering from problems or contemplating suicide are advised to contact the 24-hour Befrienders hotline at 05-547 7933 (Ipoh), 04-281 5161 (Penang) or 03-7956 8144 (Klang Valley).