Police probe Malaysian teen's suicide

She reportedly killed herself after putting up an Instagram poll on whether she should die

The Malaysian authorities are investigating the case of a 16-year-old girl who is believed to have killed herself after putting up a poll on Instagram on whether she should die.

The incident has highlighted the issue of mental health problems, particularly among the young, in the country.

"It is a very serious matter when social media is used in a manner that can endanger the lives of certain people. It could amount to an offence," Minister of Communications and Multimedia Gobind Singh Deo told reporters on Wednesday.

The government may also look at changing the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 to address cyber bullying and online actions that lead to suicides, he said.

"Having said that, I think at the same time, we also want to look at how the CMA could perhaps be tweaked to deal with problems like this," he added.

The death of the teenager is currently under police investigation, with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission saying that it is a criminal offence to encourage or assist in the suicide of a minor.

The girl, who was from Batu Kawah, in eastern Sarawak state, leapt to her death from a building on Tuesday after supposedly asking her followers on Instagram if she should choose life or death.


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She uploaded a post with the heading "Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L" on Instagram stories. D and L were said to have stood for the words "die" and "live".

Sixty-nine per cent of those polled chose "D".

The teen was said to have been emotionally upset after her stepfather, with whom she had a close relationship, married another woman.

Padawan district police chief Aidil Bolhassan said the girl had also uploaded a Facebook status saying: "Wanna quit f****** life i'm tired."

Superintendent Aidil said the teenager was close to her stepfather but became upset when he rarely returned to her home following his new marriage.

The incident showed a lack of awareness of mental health issues in the country, said Malaysian Psychiatric Association patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

"The government must train more counsellors and psychologists to help those suffering from depression and other mental problems," he said.

More cases of Malaysian children and youth with mental health problems, which may stem from increased pressure in school and fears about the future, have been reported recently.

A Ministry of Health survey in 2017 found that depression, anxiety and stress were prevalent among 18.3 per cent, 39.7 per cent and 9.6 per cent respectively of schoolgoing adolescents aged 13 to 17 years old. The same survey also showed that the prevalence of suicidal thoughts was 10 per cent, an increase from 7.9 per cent in 2012.

But the chances of getting treatment are poor in Malaysia because of a severe shortage of psychiatrists. The Health Ministry reports that there are 309 psychiatrists nationwide and only 30 specialise in child and adolescent issues.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2019, with the headline 'Police probe Malaysian teen's suicide'. Print Edition | Subscribe