IN EARLY days, people in Singapore who committed suicide tended to be sick, old people in unbearable pain.
Today, it is female teenagers who are increasingly taking their place on the ledge and jumping to their deaths.
The rate at which young Singaporean women are committing suicide is one of the highest in the world today, according to psychiatrist Dr Chia Boon Hock.
In 1991, his figures showed that 3.2 per 100,000 females aged 10 to 19 killed themselves.
Ten years later, this rate soared to 5.1, an increase of about 40%.
The proportion of males in the same age group taking their own lives is now stabilising at around four suicides per 100,000 people a year.
Also, the elderly suicide rate has dropped from 100 suicides per 100,000 people in 1960 to about 30 today.
But he noted that despondent young women appear to be “making up” the shortfall.
Among the student population, his figures showed that 2.8 males committed suicide for every one female in 1995.
But by 2002, it was 0.7 males to every one female, because the number of young women killing themselves had risen sharply.
What tips many of these young women over the edge is a mix of love problems, family frictions, bereavements, school stress, work issues, financial pressures and mental illness.
Among them, he noted that Malay female suicide rates are growing, although from a “very low base”, as more Malay women join the workforce and face rat-race pressures.
In 1969, their rate of suicides was 0.5 per 100,000 people a year. It crept up to 1.7 in 1979 and 3.7 by 1999.
Dr Chia, 68, earned a doctorate in social medicine in 1980 by researching suicide in Singapore. This was on top of his medical degree.
Another group of young women ending their lives prematurely at an alarming rate here are Indonesian maids. At least 30 have committed suicide in the last three years. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network