Drugs not the way to prevent suicide

Posed photo of a man holding pills on his palms.
Posed photo of a man holding pills on his palms.PHOTO: ST FILE

I second Mr Chen Jiaxi's opinion that suicide is more than a mental health issue and that it should not be the sole jurisdiction of medical and mental health professionals (Suicide more than just a mental health issue, Aug 16).

The suicide rate of 8.36 per 100,000 Singapore residents last year is the highest since 2012,[1] and should spark much soul-searching about the efficacy of suicide prevention efforts in Singapore.

In the heart-wrenching story of Ms Elaine Lek's tragic loss of her 17-year-old son Zen (Breaking the silence on suicide, Feb 24), it is worth noting that he took his life after being put on the potent anti-depressant Lexapro, having been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and mild depression.

Ms Lek's story is consistent with a systematic review by independent pharmaceutical watchdog Nordic Cochrane Centre that found that anti-depressants doubled the occurrence of events associated with violence and suicide[2]. The US Food and Drug Administration has, since last year, acknowledged that anti-depressants increased the risk of suicidality[3].The pharmaceutical industry has been downplaying the harms and claiming efficacy of drugs that do the exact opposite.

UN special rapporteur Dainius Puras also denounced the biomedical model in a report written this year. It is the biomedical model, through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, that[4] has been responsible for the rampant prescription of anti-depressants to treat even the slightest feeling of sadness and anxiety.

Is this happening in Singapore? [5]Rather than heed these new warnings, psychiatrists in Singapore have doubled down on the biomedical model.

Our youth and most vulnerable need real help in the form of social workers and aid to resolve the social roots of suicide, such as bullying and financial duress, as well as help from competent psychotherapists well educated on the harms that biomedical intervention will bring.

Samuel Tan[1][2][3][4][5]