Pay attention to those around you

WHETHER you believe in an afterlife, reincarnation or nothingness, the fact is that death definitively cuts you off from your current existence as the person you are.

For a small number of people, life seems to be so difficult that death may seem like a viable, and even desirable, solution to their problems. It isn’t.

As long as you are alive, you can change, your circumstances can improve, your emotions can alter – and this one and only life each of us has may come to seem precious and worth living again.

It is definitely not an easy process, getting from desiring death to desiring life once again, but there are resources out there to help those contemplating suicide.

Most of us usually have at least one person close enough and trustworthy enough for us to confide in, be it a family member or friend.

And as relatives and friends, we should not simply brush aside such confidences and conversations.

It is not uncommon to think of someone talking about their negative feelings or difficulties as just being down in that moment, who will eventually get over their issues as time passes by.

Teenagers especially might be thought of as just being angsty, emotional or “dramatic” due to their age.Most of the time, this might be true and oftentimes, a person may harm themselves with the appearance of wanting to commit suicide, but does not really intend to take the act all the way.

However, it is not easy for someone untrained in psychology to differentiate between those intent on taking their own lives and those who harm themselves without such an intent or who just talk about it.

Perhaps those who voted D (or die) on the Instagram Stories “D/L” poll of the Sarawakian teenager who recently committed suicide didn’t really think she meant to do it.All it takes is one time and one person to slip through your hands to make a mistake that will emotionally scar you for the rest of your life.As consultant psychiatrist Dr Chan Lai Fong wrote (Suicide prevention is our business, The Star, May 17, 2019), “Almost a decade ago, I lost my patient to suicide...

“There were endless ruminations about what I could have done to prevent it, but I was too emotionally raw then to address that painful but necessary issue, or to even adequately support the bereaved family.”

He quoted the World Health Organization as estimating that each suicide intimately affects a minimum of six other people.

The latest Annual Report of the National Suicide Registry Malaysia published in 2009, which was only the second of its kind, stated that there were 328 suicide cases in 2009, which is a suicide rate of 1.18 per 100,000 people.

Only about a third (33.5%) had expressed suicidal intentions, the majority of whom had done so verbally.

Over one-fifth (22%) had some form of mental illness, with depression being the most common condition. This indicates three issues.

The first is that we need to take those who talk about suicide seriously, especially if their behaviour has also changed and if they have a form of mental illness, particularly depression.

The second is that mental health needs to not only be better prioritised in our country, but society also needs to stop stigmatising those with mental health issues and indirectly preventing them from seeking the help they need.

The third is to be aware of the people we care about – two-thirds of people who committed suicide did not say they intended to do so.

However, the behaviour and mental state of someone who has decided to commit suicide is very likely to change in reflection of their decision, which those around them will be able to sense.

It is also important to note that the number of suicides reported is likely to be underestimated, as not all cases will be captured in the system.

Considering that the last report of the National Suicide Registry was a decade ago, it needs to be revived as soon as possible.

With more data, we will be able to come up with better policies and interventions to help prevent suicides, as well as to prioritise and channel the necessary resources to where they need to go.

To those who need a non-judgemental and anonymous ear, the Befrienders run a 24-hour hotline at 03-7956 8145. Contacts for their other centres nationwide can be found at

Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone for help.


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