PETALING JAYA: Poverty, poor living conditions and domestic violence are among the reasons causing teens living in people’s housing projects (PPR) to have suicidal thoughts, says a social activist.
Hope Selangor co-founder Prema Thiyagu said poverty and living in cramped conditions in PPR homes would see the teens constantly in discomfort.
“From our experience, we have seen between 12 and 15 people living in one house, where the children will be sleeping in the hall together with other adults.
“The two young girls (in that) house would be sleeping on the floor, with occasions where their relatives sexually assaulted them.
“This brought about suicidal tendencies, where we thankfully managed to intervene,” she said in an interview.
Domestic violence, she said, also caused teens to spend more time outside rather than home.
“To forget the stress at home, teens may resort to illegal substances, be involved in illegal gambling, racing and being addicted to pornography.
“Relationship failure is another reason why teens, especially girls, attempt suicide.
“This feeling of loneliness makes them long for love from others and when their partner stops loving them, they try taking their own life,” she said.
She said a judgemental society usually singled-out teens from broken families, causing them to feel unloved, uncared for and useless, resulting in suicidal thoughts.
To reduce such instances, Prema said it was important to identify why these thoughts came about in the first place.
“If it is due to poverty, we can try providing a decent life, with schools also having to play a role as teens spend most of their time there.
“Life enhancement programmes are important too where non-governmental organisations (NGO) can provide educational and motivational support to teens.
“This must be done in a continuous manner,” she said, adding that the Social Welfare Department had to work with NGOs who were directly involved with the PPR community.
Local assemblymen must also play a role and support these groups, Prema added.
“Society's perspective towards these groups has to change.
“If we do not love and guide them, there is a higher tendency for them to remain in such situations,” she said.
On March 18, Bernama reported that a total of 13.4% of children and teenagers living in PPR’s in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor were found to have had thoughts of suicide or self-harm due to the pressures of life.
The study - titled “Contributing Factors to Psychological Distress, Coping Strategies and Help-Seeking Behaviours among Adolescents Living in the Klang Valley’s People’s Housing Projects” - also found 12.3% of this group had mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni said the study was conducted in 37 PPRs, involving 1,578 children and teenagers aged between 10 and 17.
He said the factors contributing to such mental health problems include economic pressure, cramped living conditions and peer pressure.
Those needing assistance can contact the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 or 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 or WhatsApp 019-261 5999); Jakim’s Family, Social and Community care centre (WhatsApp 0111-959 8214); and Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929 or visit www.befrienders.org.my/centre-in-malaysia for a full list of numbers and operating hours).