Reading a Generation Grit story made depressed man change his mind about suicide

Mr Delane Lim (in black shirt) with trainers of the HappYouth programme. Mr Lim's story in The Straits Times' Generation Grit series made a 29-year-old man change his mind about ending his life in August 2018.
Mr Delane Lim (in black shirt) with trainers of the HappYouth programme. Mr Lim's story in The Straits Times' Generation Grit series made a 29-year-old man change his mind about ending his life in August 2018.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Depressed about a $1.5 million debt and a failed relationship, a 29-year-old man was planning to end his life in August last year.

His car workshop business had gone downhill, he chalked up massive debts from gambling, and his fiancee called off their wedding and left him.

The day before John (not his real name) was to end it all, his friend sent him a story of Mr Delane Lim in The Straits Times' Generation Grit series.

Mr Lim almost jumped off a block in 2011 but he changed his mind when a friend serendipitously texted him - without knowing he was sitting on the ledge of the 21st floor - asking him out for coffee.

Mr Lim replied that he was in pain and needed major surgery, and the friend replied: "God wouldn't remove the pain but he would give you the strength to go through it."

That conversation made Mr Lim change his mind about suicide.

John, who is a Christian, said: "Reading Delane's story was like a wake-up call to stop all my nonsense suicidal thoughts that I was struggling with."

 
 
 

He found Mr Lim's e-mail address on the Internet and wrote to him. The latter contacted John and spent four hours listening to him and talking him out of suicide.

"Delane encouraged me and gave me ideas on how to repay my debts, instead of running away from it all. He's very willing to help and he's a very warm-hearted man," said John.

He has started to attend a support group to quit gambling, found a job in the procurement line and gone back to attending church services.

As for Mr Lim, he is now the executive director of the Character and Leadership Academy, which he started in 2013 after he was pulled from the brink of suicide. The charity trains students to spot signs of depression in their peers and help them, among other things.

  • 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: 1800-274-4788

"I think everyone has a responsibility to be a gate-keeper of other people's lives - whether the person is a stranger or not. We have to try to convince them not to commit suicide," said the 34-year-old, who is also the executive director of an architectural firm.

His own suicidal experience - due to health and business problems and a failed relationship - made him realise his own vulnerabilities and sparked in him the need to reach out to vulnerable young people.

He still struggles with a degenerative spine problem and takes four strong painkillers daily. But the constant pain does not stop him from coming up with more community service initiatives.

In March, Mr Lim pledged $10,000 of his own money to start "My Dollar Story". He plans to give 10,000 students $1 each to encourage them to pay it forward.

He said he gave a group of students $1 each last year as an experiment for this initiative and one teenage girl multiplied $1 to $82, which she donated to charity.

She used the $1 to buy colour paper to fold stars, sold stars at three for $1, earned $12 from the sale, and bought erasers to sell. And she ended up with $82.

He has given out about $4,000 to almost 4,000 students so far.

Mr Lim, who said he is open to pledging another $10,000, said: "Don't look down on $1. I want to kick start students to think about paying it forward."

Mr Lim is one of the 24 nominees for the inaugural The Straits Times Generation Grit Award 2018. The Straits Times, in partnership with reinsurance firm Swiss Re, created the award to honour the millennials in the Generation Grit series who have shown remarkable courage, resilience and service to the community.

Three winners will be picked for the award and the award ceremony will be held on May 6. The public can vote for their favourite nominee at http://str.sg/ggaward until April 7. As of Monday (April 1), over 2,700 votes have been received.

Besides Mr Lim, readers have also sought the help of a few others featured in the Generation Grit series. For example, some asked Mr Thomas Liao, 31, on ways to help their children who are hooked on drugs.

Mr Liao is a former gangster and drug trafficker who was sentenced to 5½ years' jail and 10 strokes of the cane. After his release from jail, he became a social worker.

Mr Liao, now a senior social work associate at Fei Yue Community Services, said: "These readers read my story and saw that I have a similar background as their sons. Through my sharing, I hope they have a better insight on how to better manage their situation."

He was also invited to give talks by various groups, such as the Tanah Merah Prison School and Singapore Boys' Home.

Then there is Mr Lee Wee Yong, 26, who almost died from a massive stroke when he was just 21-years-old and serving national service. After a long rehabilitative process, he can now walk short distances with the help of a walking frame, and he completed a degree in social work last year.

Mr Lee, who is now working as a social worker at Viriya Community Services, visited a depressed man in his 40s who suffered a stroke too. The man's sister read Mr Lee's story and asked if he could visit her brother in hospital to encourage him.

Besides offering encouragement or help, some of those featured in the Generation Grit series received help from readers too.

For example, Ms Ju-ann Thong, 35, received supermarket vouchers from a few readers. A tuition teacher also offered to tutor her eldest son for free.

Her 49-year-old husband, a part-time mattress salesman, suffers from a rare cancer and they have three children aged between two and 13. To make ends meet, Ms Thong works as a bank administrator in the day and fries crab sticks for sale at night.

She said: "In fast-paced Singapore, you wonder if there is warmth.

"But you realise there are people coming forward to send you a gesture of kindness and encouragement. This compels me to do better in the situation I'm in."