Opinion: More Of Us Think About Suicide Than We Admit, Here’s Why We Shouldn’t Keep Quiet

This piece is part of MS Speaks, a segment in which MS News reporters share their honest views on current affairs and trending topics.

Singapore Should Normalise Seeking Help For Thoughts About Suicide

Life gets tough sometimes; maybe you’ve sent your 100th job application without a single call back and you’ve lost hope or perhaps, home isn’t exactly a safe space for you to be in.

In these low moments, thoughts like “Wouldn’t it be better if I just didn’t wake up tomorrow?” may start to creep in.

While you may not actively want to do it, thinking about suicide or being okay with dying if something out of your control happens are some signs of suicidal ideation.

What is suicidal ideation exactly?

If you haven’t watched the ‘Barbie’ movie, this next part might be a spoiler but for those who have – remember when Barbie said, “Do you guys ever think about dying?”

Source: Tumblr

The absurdity of the statement in the middle of a full-blown choreography definitely earned some laughter but that is part of what suicidal ideation entails.

Thinking about death itself isn’t something major, but at least 7.8% of Singapore’s adult population has had thoughts about suicide at some point in their lives, according to a 2021 report by the Institute of Mental Health.

Suicidal ideation has a range of severity, from just thinking about never waking up again to having detailed plans for suicide and even writing a will.

Just having some passive thoughts about life suddenly ending doesn’t mean it isn’t serious enough to cause concern though, seeking help early is a great way to help cope with it.

Symptoms & behaviour of those dealing with suicidal ideation

Something else that helps in identifying if you or your loved ones are dealing with suicidal ideation is learning about some of the symptoms and changes in behaviour.

Some of the more common symptoms according to Medical News Daily include substance abuse, excessive sleeping or lack of sleep and purposely getting into dangerous situations.

Source: Isabella Fischer on Unsplash

Understanding the difference between those who have suicidal ideation and those who are actively suicidal is also important.

Those dealing with suicidal ideation are at this stage due to the guilt of burdening their loved ones with their death or just the fear of death itself.

While unpleasant, these feelings are often what stops them from actually committing. But this doesn’t mean that they should be used as a deterrent; these feelings should still be addressed.

Role of social media in spreading awareness

Social media has played a big role in changing perceptions of suicide, both for the better and for the worse.

This might just be because the stigma of talking about suicide and depression has been reduced but expressing thoughts on these issues is becoming somewhat trendy on social media.

According to Bloomberg, TikTok’s algorithm has caused impressionable youth to be exposed to content that contains messages about depression or suicide.

While they are creating a page that’s “for you”, it’s not very beneficial to continue flooding someone suffering from suicidal ideation with content that affirms their feelings and plans.

Source: Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

However, it would also be wrong to say that social media is to blame entirely for a rise in suicides, like the 25.9% rise in suicides in 2022 compared to 2021.

Social media helps raise awareness on how to get help and provide people with more information. It also helps people realise that they are not alone in their struggles.

A Singapore study published in the National Library of Medicine found that with social media being such an integral part of youths’ lives, it can also serve as an “avenue for building positive mental health” through:

  • Connections with friends and the global community (social support)
  • Engagement with positively influential content
  • An outlet for personal expression

Therefore, in many ways, heightened awareness of mental health issues including suicidal ideation is a double-edged sword – and thus, we need to navigate social media wisely to only reap the benefits.

Reducing the stigma around getting help

Of course, awareness alone isn’t enough. For anyone harbouring suicidal thoughts, help is also necessary.

And it seems like with greater knowledge of it, the authorities are increasingly being alerted to such cases.

After Singapore decriminalised suicide attempts in 2020, the police received 1,800 requests for assistance involving persons with suicidal ideation or who may have attempted suicide, noted the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

This was up from 1,200 calls per year from 2017 to 2019.

Although the numbers may not be entirely indicative of a positive outcome, they show that the absence of criminal punishment removes a barrier to seeking help.

With more people likely getting early intervention, their loved ones could hopefully stop their suicidal ideation from progressing further.

Getting help for those who’ve thought about suicide

That being said, even with intervention, individuals who are struggling with their mental health may still feel like they don’t want to burden people around them.

In order to motivate them to keep going, loved ones must thus remind them that reaching out and accepting help are already brave first steps.

But if seeking professional help proves to be too much, starting off with suggesting simple lifestyle changes might just benefit them.

Encouraging them to go for walks, meet friends, take up new hobbies or even just some words of affirmation can go a long way to improving their outlook on life.

While those with suicidal ideation may not necessarily be in immediate danger of taking their own life, it’s just as important to look out for them.

They may be in a fragile state but it’s still possible to prevent the worst from happening – remember that it’s better to listen to their story than have to tell it when they’re gone.

You can try these hotlines if you or a loved one are affected:

  • National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868 (8am-12am daily)
  • Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service
  • Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
  • Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6385-3714
  • Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6445-0400
  • HEART @ Fei Yue Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6819-9170
  • PAVE Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection: 6555-0390
  • Project StART: 6476-1482
  • TRANS SAFE Centre: 6449-9088
  • TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800 377 2252

Remember, these hotlines are not solely reserved for suicidal cases.

Note: The views expressed within this article are the author’s own.

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Featured image adapted from Tusik Only on Unsplash for illustration purposes only.

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