Do more to prevent drowning

We understand from the Registry of Births and Deaths that there were 17 accidental drowning deaths and six drowning deaths where the intent could not be determined last year.

This means that the total number, as well as the rate for deaths by drowning (excluding drowning deaths by suicide and assault), increased last year after falling for four consecutive years.

In addition, there were another 18 suicidal drowning deaths last year. These 18 suicidal drowning deaths have overtaken the 17 suicidal drowning deaths in 2014 as the second highest number of suicidal drowning deaths since 1965.

Last year was also the second consecutive year in which suicidal drowning deaths exceeded accidental drowning deaths. Thus, the concern we raised previously ("Suicidal drownings a growing concern"; Oct 12, 2015) seems to be justified.

These signs are worrying.

Furthermore, deaths from drowning normally represent the tip of the iceberg, and non-fatal drowning injuries usually affect more people.

Injuries arising from non-fatal drowning incidents may be quite serious - for example, brain damage - and can also cause long-term disabilities, like the permanent loss of basic functions.

Unfortunately, we do not know the extent of the non-fatal drowning situation in Singapore, and we are not aware of any information concerning this that is available to the public.

In the United States, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show that for every child who dies from drowning, five others receive emergency department care for injuries from non-fatal drowning.

In the Netherlands, it has been estimated that for every child drowning death, there are five non-fatal hospital admissions and six visits to emergency departments.

The likelihood is that there are also many more people with non-fatal drowning injuries than those who die from drowning in Singapore.

More can be done to prevent deaths and injuries from drowning, and we hope more will be done by everyone concerned. The continuous efforts of all the authorities, agencies and people concerned are necessary for the prevention of drowning.

The price of water safety is much like the price of liberty, that is, eternal vigilance.

Richard Tan Ming Kirk

President

Singapore Life Saving Society

HELPLINES

- Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444

- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

- Institute of Mental Health's Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222

- Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800