Parliament: Not reasonable to expect teenagers to take crisis calls from suicidal peers, says Tan Chuan-Jin

Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said it would not be reasonable for teenagers to be expected to take crisis calls from other teens who have suicidal thoughts.
Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said it would not be reasonable for teenagers to be expected to take crisis calls from other teens who have suicidal thoughts. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - It is not reasonable to expect teenagers to take crisis calls from their suicidal peers, said Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin in Parliament on Tuesday (Sept 13).

He was responding to MP Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who asked whether there is a need to set up a special hotline for teens that is manned by teenagers trained in counselling.

"Counselling such persons requires relevant training, skills, emotional maturity and understanding of life's challenges. I think it would not be reasonable to expect teenagers to possess all these pre-requisites," said Mr Tan.

"For better awareness and dedication of resources, there should be just one hotline for such calls," he added.

Mr Saktiandi and Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) had filed questions on teen suicides, which hit a 15-year high last year with 27 cases. This was double that in 2014, despite a drop in overall suicides.

Last month, two students from a top junior college killed themselves within 10 days of each other.

Citing those recent cases, MP Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) asked the Ministry of Education (MOE) if it has reviewed all circumstances to determine why warning signs from such students were not detected earlier and how to prevent such suicides from recurring.

Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary said MOE reviews every case.

"Often, there were no warning signs. So we need to find out what are the other stressors that perhaps were not picked up by the existing systems and processes that we have," said Dr Puthucheary.

He added that the ministry is undertaking a further review of its strategies and possible interventions to prevent suicides.

A multi-agency group that aims to better understand why young people take their own lives and what can be done to help them was also recently set up.

The group comprises the Health Ministry, the Institute of Mental Health, the Forensic Medicine Division of the Health Sciences Authority, the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) and the Court.

State Coroner Marvin Bay revealed the formation of such a group last month when he delivered his findings on the death of 14-year-old Benjamin Lim on Jan 26, which he concluded was a "deliberate act of suicide".