Army regular's death ruled a suicide

Worried that his troubled mental history could affect his career as an army regular, Specialist Cadet Trainee (SCT) S. Pravinraj indicated "no" on a pre-enlistment medical screening when asked if he had any psychiatric conditions.

He also downplayed his condition to his supervising officer.

These prevented the 20-year-old from getting the help he needed, said State Coroner Marvin Bay, who yesterday ruled SCT Pravinraj's death in 2015 a suicide.

He died from a self-inflicted shot to the head in a Sembawang Camp toilet on Nov 21, 2015, while performing guard duty. Another cadet who was on duty with him rushed into the toilet after hearing a loud explosion, and discovered blood spatter on the ceiling.

SCT Pravinraj had been referred to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in 2011 for an apparent suicide attempt after quarrelling with his mother. He was later diagnosed with depression and acute stress reaction.

But SCT Pravinraj chose to omit these details when enlisting in 2012. The coroner said he might have perceived this information to be possibly prejudicial to his preferred career as a regular.

He added that SCT Pravinraj was also evasive about his mental condition when his supervising officer, Captain Benjamin Kang, interviewed him at Sungei Gedong Camp in August 2013.

The coroner said: "He had revealed that he had been treated at the IMH but had glossed over his issues to stem from adverse familial relations.

"Mr Pravinraj's own (actions) likely cost him an opportunity to receive proper and timely counselling and treatment to manage his psychological conditions."

SCT Pravinraj was estranged from both his parents, who are divorced. According to one of his friends, he had even spent some nights sleeping at void decks and staircase landings.

Just months before his death, his ties with two close friends, who were in a relationship, also became strained after he was accused of trying to interfere with their problems.

Coroner Bay said: "Mr Pravinraj's motivations are thus principally personal, from his alienation with his family and his perception of being left alone by his kin to fend for himself.

"I should state that the evidence does not suggest any bullying, mistreatment or unresolved work-related grievance on the part of Mr Pravinraj, in his time as a regular serviceman."

SCT Pravinraj's mother and one of his younger brothers were in court yesterday but they declined to comment when approached.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2017, with the headline 'Army regular's death ruled a suicide'. Print Edition | Subscribe