Long-term strategy required to address youth suicides

PETALING JAYA: The rate of suicides among the youth is a national public health issue that requires a sustainable, long-term strategy, according to a study by Relate Mental Health Malaysia.

The study found that youth suicides had caused economic losses of RM346.2mil in 2019 alone.

According to the report, official government data revealed that a total of 512 youths had committed suicide in 2019, adding that 74.3% of these deaths involved young men.

It noted that in the same year, youth suicides cost the local economy an estimated RM346.2mil, or RM676,165 per incident.

"Beside the immeasurable emotional toll suicides have on families, it also has an economic impact on communities, societies and the nation, with a loss of manpower and income for families, employers and the government," read the report.

The report was co-authored by Dr Chua Sook Ning and Vaisnavi Rao and published by Relate Mental Health Malaysia in association with the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas).

It noted that the figure was a conservative estimate as it did not take into account direct costs such as for medical, for the police and other intangible costs.

"For every death by suicide, it is estimated that there will be 10 to 20 more suicide attempts. Youth suicide is a public health issue that requires a long-term sustainable strategy," read the report.

On youth suicides, Relate Malaysia founder and clinical psychologist Dr Chua said the suicide rate among young people in the country makes it morally imperative for policymakers to take swift action and address the issue.

"Given that Malaysia is an aging population, we must provide quality support and services that provide much needed assistance to youth who are struggling, and this includes the decriminalisation of suicide," she said.

Similarly, Ideas chief executive officer Tricia Yeoh hoped that policymakers would recognise the urgency of youth suicides.

Ideas and Relate Malaysia proposed several suggestions in the report, including calls for the government to build on existing guidelines for suicide prevention, in a collaborative effort across ministries.

The groups also urged authorities to resume the National Suicide Registry where the information on age, gender, ethnicity, state, and methods of suicide should be detailed.

It also urged relevant authorities to set up a guideline to strengthen media reporting and close collaboration with local and international experts on the issue.

Those in need of someone to talk to can call Befrienders at 03-7627 2929, email sam@befrienders.org.my or visit its website at www.befrienders.org.my.

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