Suicide prevention is everybody's business, and it takes the effort of the entire community, especially when involving hard-to-reach groups such as the elderly, who may feel disengaged ("Parliament: Whole-of-government approach to preventing elderly suicide, says Tan Chuan-Jin"; ST Online, Jan 10).
Suicide is rarely due to a single event or reason, and suicide risk is determined by a number of individual, community and environmental factors.
Such factors include a previous suicide attempt, family history of suicide, sense of isolation, chronic pain and illness. In a paper published by the Ageing and Mental Health Journal in 2015, it was also found that "functional disability, as well as a number of specific physical illnesses, was shown to be associated with suicidal behaviour in older adults".
Family members act as crucial gatekeepers in spotting signs of distress, and in paying attention to the mental, emotional and physical health of the elderly in the family.
Encouraging their loved ones to seek professional health and mental health support is also an important safeguard.
At the community level, neighbours, friends and co-workers play an equally important role by creating an inclusive society for elders and encouraging them to participate in social activities to avoid isolation.
The Samaritans of Singapore, which provides a 24-hour hotline (1800-221-4444) manned by trained volunteers, will continue working with grassroots organisations and relevant agencies in reaching out to the elderly population in Singapore in suicide prevention.
Christine Wong (Ms)
Samaritans of Singapore