What happened to singer could happen to anyone

The death of singer Kim Jong Hyun saw local fans organise an event for public mourning (A black and white memorial for SHINee's Jonghyun by Singaporean fans at Hong Lim Park; ST Online, Dec 20).

Sympathy, tears, shock and disbelief were just some of the reactions. But all things considered, should we be surprised when such a suicide occurs?

Kim was a star. He seemingly had it all - fame, fortune and success.

But let's take a closer look at what else we know about him.

  • He was male. And when it comes to suicide, gender differences abound. Since 2010, the ratio of male to female suicide deaths in Singapore has been approximately two to one. Nationally, more males than females die by suicide every year. This is in line with the trend for many developed countries.
    Interestingly, it is believed that significantly more women than men attempt suicide. This is known as the gender paradox in suicide.
  • He was 27. Among young people aged 15 to 29, suicide is the second leading cause of death globally, after road traffic injuries. In Singapore, suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in the same age band.
  • He was struggling with his mental health. It was reported that Kim confessed to "depressive feelings" his entire life in an earlier magazine interview. A note he left a confidant also surfaced his feelings of hopelessness and despair.
    Mental health and suicide are closely related. Those grappling with mental health are at greater risk of suicide than the general population. How many people truly understand the sadness and feelings of depression that overwhelm a person? Depression can be devastating and requires support from professionals, family and the community.
  • He was in a high-pressure environment. In his line of business, there is overwhelming pressure to succeed, with celebrities having to account to their label, fans and team mates. At the same time, criticism and feedback are swift and unforgiving.
  • 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

Kim's death is the most recent in a year that saw several high-profile celebrity suicides, including those of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington.

But he could have been anyone who experienced emotional turmoil with suicidal thoughts which ended tragically in death.

Suicide can and must be prevented. It is a public health concern which claims individuals from all walks of life, ages and cultures.

Suicide prevention is everyone's business. We need to talk about suicide - and not just when celebrities suffer.

Christine Wong (Ms)

Executive Director

Samaritans of Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2017, with the headline 'What happened to singer could happen to anyone'. Print Edition | Subscribe