Help At Your Fingertips

Helplines Take suicide threats seriously

Talk to the troubled person, express your concern and call the helplines for advice

All suicide threats or attempts must be taken seriously, said Ms Lee Yi Ping, a senior youth support worker with the Community Health Assessment Team at the Institute of Mental Health.

The perception that those who threaten to commit suicide are just seeking attention is a common myth that many have about suicide, she added.

Warning signs to look out for include:

•Verbal warning signs: These include expressions of hopelessness or helplessness such as "Life is too hard for me" or making suicide threats.

•Pre-suicide planning: This includes writing suicide notes, giving away prized possessions and saying goodbye.

•Emotional or behavioural changes: These include a dramatic change in personality or appearance, irrational or bizarre behaviour, intense rage, changes in eating or sleeping habits, a lack of interest in the future, engaging in risky activities, and withdrawing from family, friends and society.

  • Helplines

    •SOS 24-hour Hotline Call 1800-221-4444 (This is manned by trained volunteers) SOS e-mail befriending service: pat@sos.org.sg (Response time is within two working days).

    •Singapore Association of Mental Health

    Call 1800-283-7019

    •Institute of Mental Health

    Call 6389-2222 (24 hours)

    •Tinkle Friend Call 1800-274-4788 (For primary school-aged children)

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

"A good understanding of the usual behaviours and coping patterns of the person helps you notice when he is going through struggles or problems," said Ms Christine Wong, executive director of Samaritans of Singapore (SOS).

SOMEONE TO TALK TO

Calling helplines, including SOS, can be extremely helpful if the teen is contemplating suicide but needs someone to talk to...

DR ONG SAY HOW, senior consultant and chief, Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, at the Institute of Mental Health

HOW TO HELP A SUICIDAL PERSON

If you know someone who is contemplating suicide, it can be useful to express your concern and talk about this with him, said Ms Wong.

Make sure this is done in a caring and non-judgmental manner and let him know of the resources available at SOS and other professional help groups, she said.

To start a conversation with the troubled person, she suggested that you could say: "You don't seem yourself lately. Did something happen?" or "I noticed you look a bit down and I am worried about you".

Parents who are unsure about how to address this or find that their children require more support than they can provide can connect their children with professional help resources such as a counsellor, said Ms Wong.

Those contemplating suicide or going through a crisis must immediately reach out to trusted people for support, she said.

Talking to these trusted ones about their struggles will make them feel less overwhelmed by their problems, she said.

They then need to contact SOS through the hotline or other professionals to talk about their suicidal ideation, she added.

WHAT TO DO IN AN EMERGENCY

If parents find a suicide note, they should ascertain if it is truly one or if it is just a sort of diary depicting the teen's thoughts and feelings, said Dr Ong Say How, senior consultant and chief, Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, at the Institute of Mental Health.

A suicide note would need urgent attention, he stressed.

This would include taking the teen to the emergency room at the nearest hospital for medical treatment, with the possibility of being admitted into a psychiatric facility, he said.

"Calling helplines, including SOS, can be extremely helpful if the teen is contemplating suicide but needs someone to talk to before making his choice, or even if the teen is in any form of emotional distress," said Dr Ong.

"Parents can, of course, call the helplines for advice for their children."

Said Ms Wong: "If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to a suicide crisis situation, call 995 for an ambulance or accompany the person to the A&E department of a nearby hospital immediately."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2016, with the headline 'Helplines Take suicide threats seriously '. Print Edition | Subscribe