One in every 100 deaths worldwide occurs due to suicide. Each suicide is devasting and has a deep impact on people around them.
Every year, we observe World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention. The theme for 2022 is ‘Creating Hope Through Action’, as the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) hopes to empower people to care for those experiencing suicidal thoughts.
The event also aims to highlight the role of the individual. All of us can play a role in preventing suicides, be it through sharing experiences or simply listening and understanding the struggles that people face. We can be the hope in someone’s darkest times, helping those who are experiencing a suicidal crisis or those bereaved by suicide.
Read about World Suicide Prevention Day: https://www.iasp.info/
Suicide cases amidst the pandemic
With the pandemic, stresses including social isolation, financial stress, and interpersonal issues have come to the forefront. Last year, we saw the number of suicides among youth aged 10 to 29 reach an all-time high of 112 cases. Furthermore, there were 452 suicides in 2020, which is Singapore’s highest count since 2012. Suicide deaths rose to 8.88 per 100,000 Singapore residents, which is an increase of 0.88 as compared to 2019.
Given the uncertainty of how long the pandemic is going to last, we must continue to find new ways to support the mental health of everyone.
Feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Speak to your family doctor at My Family Clinic.
Importance of suicide prevention
More than 700 000 people die due to suicide every year. For every suicide that results in death, there are as many as 40 attempted suicides. Every life lost to suicide is a one too many.
Many people with suicidal thoughts remain reluctant and afraid to reach out for help. Fortunately, suicide is preventable with timely intervention and the right support. Below are some risk factors to look out for.
Suicidal thoughts are very complex, and there is no single reason why people choose to take their own lives. There are certain factors and life events that may make someone more susceptible to suicide. Learning about the possible risk factors linked to suicidal thoughts, together with ways you can help, may save a life.
A big contributing factor of suicide is undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. While it is established that suicide is linked to mental disorders in high-income countries, many suicides occur impulsively due to the inability to deal with difficult situation and feelings.
Distressing life events like a divorce, job loss, or death of loved ones are risk factors as well, along with prolonged stress factors like bullying and abuse.
Other risk factors of suicide include feeling hopeless and a sense of isolation. Suicide rates are also high amongst vulnerable groups of people who experience discrimination, including migrants and members of the LGBTI community.
The strongest risk factor thus far, however, is a previous suicide attempt.
Here are some warning signs that indicate that someone may be contemplating suicide:
- “My family and friends will be better off without me.”
- “My life is meaningless anyway.”
- Giving away treasured possessions and saying goodbye
- Writing suicide notes (including emails, diary entries, and blogs)
- An increase in substance use or misuse
- Displaying emotional outbursts (including anger, sadness, irritability, recklessness)
- Having a loss of interest
Read more about risk factors and warning signs of suicide: https://afsp.org/risk-factors-protective-factors-and-warning-signs
How you can help
People who are suicidal may feel alone and have no other options. By reaching out and lending a listening ear, you can show those who are experiencing suicidal thoughts that there is hope and that you care about them. All of us play a role, no matter how small. As a friend, colleague, neighbour, or family member, we can stop someone from ending their life.
Take time to notice what is happening with you, your friends, family members, and colleagues. If you notice something is amiss, encourage them to seek help.
People are often hesitant to intervene, due to reasons such as a fear of not knowing what to do or say. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to helping someone who is contemplating suicide. Often, they are not looking for specific advice. Compassion and empathy from other people can help turn things around.
Another concern that prevents people from intervening is the fear of making the situation worse. There is also the myth that talking about suicide may trigger the act, but this is usually not the case. The offer of support is more likely to reduce distress than worsen it.
If the situation is serious, encourage them to seek medical help or call a suicide hotline for advice. Mental health looks different for everyone, but all of us need support. Keep checking on them until you are sure that they are in a healthy state of mind again.
How telehealth can improve mental health outcomes
With telehealth, it is now easier to receive mental health support. With strong uptake and positive consumer perception, telehealth is continuing to grow. A June 2022 report found that telehealth provided an alternative to in-person care for Medicare beneficiaries in 2021, helping maintain costs and the number of patient visits.
The benefits for telehealth include less travel time, higher ease of access, improved clinical processes and greater privacy. According to a McKinsey & Co. report, these benefits are felt the most acutely in mental health care.
A real-time, online consultation with a therapist to treat mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression is better for the patient as their needs are addressed immediately.
If you notice any risk factors among your friends, family members, neighbours, or yourself, encourage them to seek professional help via AllyTele.
Please note that video consultation via AllyTele is not suitable for serious or emergency conditions.
Read about CDC’s prevention strategies: https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/prevention/index.html
Your doctor is likely to give a medical examination and ask questions such as:
- Do you have a history of depression or mental illness?
- How long have you been having thoughts of suicide?
- Have you created a suicide plan?
- Are you taking any medication—and, if so, what kind?
- How often do you use alcohol or drugs?
If you are having suicidal thoughts but there is no crisis, your doctor may recommend psychotherapy and medication that can help reduce the risk of suicide.
Psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to explore why you are feeling suicidal and ways to cope.
Other treatment methods include substance use disorder treatment for those who are experiencing an increase in alcohol or drug use.
Lifestyle changes such as improving sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, and building a support system can also help.
For those diagnosed with underlying depression that is causing suicidal ideation, your doctor may prescribe antipsychotic medication, anti-anxiety medication, or antidepressants.