Every three days or so, an elderly person in Singapore commits suicide. Last year, 129 did so, the highest recorded. This is against a trend of declining suicide numbers - from an average of 415 suicides between 2011 and 2015 to 361 last year. But a higher proportion is coming from people aged 60 and above: an average of 116 elderly folk took their own lives from 2011 to 2015, and this went up to 129 last year. As Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), the suicide prevention agency, reported, from 2012 to 2016, the average suicide rate was 9.14 deaths by suicide per 100,000 residents, but last year this rate dipped to an all-time low of 7.74 deaths by suicide per 100,000 residents. It said that elderly suicides last year were "an alarming 123 per cent of that in 2011".
The number of elderly folk taking their own lives remains small, and this also needs to be seen in the context of a growing elderly population. But these numbers do not include attempted suicides. Past replies to MPs' questions in Parliament suggest that there are about 1,000 attempted suicides but their age profiles are not made public. It is also true, as government leaders have said, that suicide is a multi-faceted problem requiring a holistic approach to tackle that includes public education, proactive outreach to the vulnerable, crisis response, family support and building individual resilience.