Group seeks to understand youth suicides

Policemen at the scene of Benjamin Lim's death at Yishun Avenue 9 on January 26.
Policemen at the scene of Benjamin Lim's death at Yishun Avenue 9 on January 26. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

With youth suicides in Singapore reaching a 15-year high, a multi-agency group is taking action to better understand why young people take their own lives and what can be done to help them.

It has already met - its latest meeting was on Tuesday - and drawn up a plan for information to be shared so as to "better understand the motivations and ideation behind youth suicides", State Coroner Marvin Bay revealed yesterday.

He made the announcement in delivering his findings on the death of 14-year-old Benjamin Lim on Jan 26, which he concluded was a "deliberate act of suicide".

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.

"It is well known that the motivations for youth suicides are not very well understood," said the coroner, adding that Benjamin's death is no exception.

Thus, the multi-agency group will set out to understand the pathology of the suicides before working with other stakeholders to come up with ways to address "stressors and influences" that lead young people to harm themselves, he said.

In his report on Benjamin's death, Coroner Bay said it was very likely that "a combination of factors" led to his suicide. Quoting the SOS, he said the teenage years can be a difficult time when young people struggle with issues of identity and belonging.

There is a higher risk of suicide when young people have "predisposing vulnerabilities". These include mental health issues and external stressors from the home and study environments.

Last year, 27 young people aged 10 to 19 killed themselves. This was twice as many as in 2014 and the highest in 15 years.

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2016, with the headline 'Group seeks to understand youth suicides'. Print Edition | Subscribe