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Teen suicides last year highest in more than a decade, says SOS

SINGAPORE — Despite a shrinking teenage population, the number of suicides among those aged between 10 and 19 years old last year spiked to the highest in more than a decade.

Samaritans Of Singapore hotline. TODAY file photo

Samaritans Of Singapore hotline. TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — Despite a shrinking teenage population, the number of suicides among those aged between 10 and 19 years old last year spiked to the highest in more than a decade.

Among the 409 reported suicides last year, 27 suicides were from the 10 to 19 age group, said the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) on Monday (July 25).

The figure matched the peak in 2001. Between 2002 and 2014, the number of suicides in the 10 to 19 age group ranged between 10 and 22.

The SOS noted that the number of teenage suicides had gone up despite a shrinking population of those aged 10 to 19 years old, which has seen a decline of 7.1 per cent since 2012.

This also comes as the overall suicide rate fell to its lowest last year since 2012. With 409 reported suicides in Singapore last year, the suicide rate was 8.43 per 100,000 resident population. The rate in 2012 was 10.27.

SOS executive director Christine Wong called on organisations working with youth here “to work even more closely with SOS in our efforts to reach out to them”.

SOS said young people appear reluctant to seek help from family members during a crisis. 

“While this could be, in part, caused by a lack of connection in some families, teenagers in this age group also appear to experience difficulties sharing about their struggles,” said SOS, adding that these teens expressed fear of being judged and of the reactions they may receive from family members.

Of the calls received on the SOS 24-hour hotline last year in which clients disclosed their age, 9 per cent belonged to the 10 to 19 age group, compared with 1.5 per cent in 2012.

“The most common stressors cited by those aged 10 to 19 through SOS services included mental health issues, academic pressure, and relationship problems at home and in school,” said SOS, adding that suicidal behaviours in young people are “usually rooted in multiple risk factors”.

The organisation also noted that suicide risk increases when there are predisposing vulnerabilities such as mental health issues and external stressors from the home and study environments. 

It also noted that for its Email Befriending service, 35.2 per cent of all clients from last year whose age was known were from the 10 to 19 age group, more than twice the figure in 2012.

Earlier this month, TODAY reported that SOS was setting up a new SOS Services and Training centre to train its staff in helping their younger clients who may sometimes prefer to communicate via email, and to meet employers’ requests for training to spot signs of distress in the workplace.

The new centre will give the SOS a chance to explore more outreach platforms such as WhatsApp and live cyber-counselling. SOS also stressed the importance of the role of community and an individual’s social support groups, as well as the need to foster a “culture of help-seeking”. 

SOS said it has been working with partners towards such an environment through community education and engagement talks, workshops, campaigns and training. 

It is also increasing its outreach efforts to youth agencies and educational institutions.

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