'Not reasonable' to expect teens to take crisis calls from peers

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 yesterday.

He was responding to Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who asked if there is a need to set up a special hotline for teenagers that is manned by their fellow teens 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.

Charity groups such as the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) run a 24-hour crisis hotline. Trained adult volunteers man the SOS hotline.

  • 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

    SILVER RIBBON: 6386-1928

    TINKLE FRIEND (FOR PRIMARY SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN): 1800-274-4788

However, some counsellors feel it is important to involve the youth as young people tend to be more comfortable sharing these issues with their friends.

Teen suicides hit a 15-year high last year with 27 cases. This was double that in 2014, despite a drop in the overall number of suicides.

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

Citing those recent cases, Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) asked if the Ministry of Education (MOE) has reviewed all circumstances to determine why the 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 the 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 his ministry is undertaking a further review of its strategies to prevent suicides.

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

The group comprises the Health Ministry, the Institute of Mental Health, the Forensic Medicine Division of the Health Sciences Authority, SOS and the State Courts.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline ''Not reasonable' to expect teens to take crisis calls from peers'. Print Edition | Subscribe