Slight rise in number of suicides last year

After a downward trend over three years, the number of people who killed themselves went up slightly last year.

A total of 429 people took their own lives last year, up from 409 in 2015, 415 in 2014 , and 422 in 2013.

This is according to the 2016 Report on Registration of Births and Deaths, recently released by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority. The number of suicides had reached a 20-year high of 467 in 2012.

As a result of the increase, the national suicide rate rose to 8.54 per 100,000 resident population last year, compared with 8.43 the year before.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

This figure is in line with those of most developed countries, which range between eight and 10 suicides per 100,000 people.

The higher numbers were spread out across age groups aged 50 and above, especially for men, which psychiatrists said are a traditionally at-risk group worldwide.

Many turn to suicide when they "feel it's too late to turn the ship around", after suffering setbacks like getting retrenched or divorced, psychiatrist Adrian Wang said.

Another factor is the feeling of humiliation, he said, amplified by the use of social media.

  • 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

"Social media can increase a person's sense of isolation. You take a look at someone's happy vacation or family photos, and it magnifies your pain and makes you feel like you're suffering alone."

Child psychiatrist Brian Yeo said the majority of suicides have always been by elderly men, although the spotlight has been on younger people killing themselves of late.

Last year, the number of suicides among those aged 10 to 19 dropped to 22, after 2015's 15-year high of 27.

On the drop, Dr Yeo said: "Every suicide is one too many, but at least it does not seem to be a rising trend."

While it is important to continue to keep an eye on at-risk teenagers, he also urged for more resources to be channelled towards watching out for the elderly. This includes beefing up outreach programmes.

"If we know that elderly folk living alone are at risk, can we activate more volunteers to visit them, and leverage on a network of doctors to provide more care?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2017, with the headline 'Slight rise in number of suicides last year'. Print Edition | Subscribe