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Suicides in Singapore reach 8-year high in pandemic-hit 2020, with elderly suicides highest since 1991

SINGAPORE — Suicides climbed across all age groups here to reach an eight-year high last year during the Covid-19 pandemic, most markedly among seniors.

Suicides in Singapore reach 8-year high in pandemic-hit 2020, with elderly suicides highest since 1991

The Samaritans of Singapore said that 452 suicides were reported in Singapore in 2020, up from 400 in 2019.

  • There were 452 suicides in Singapore in 2020 — the highest since 2012 
  • 154 of them were seniors and suicides for this group rose 26 per cent
  • Experts say social isolation, the difficulty seniors face in coping with the pandemic may have been contributing factors

 

SINGAPORE — Suicides climbed across all age groups here to reach an eight-year high last year during the Covid-19 pandemic, most markedly among seniors.

The number of elders aged 60 and older who took their lives rose to its highest since 1991.

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), a non-profit suicide prevention centre, said on Thursday (July 8) that 452 suicides were reported in Singapore last year, up from 400 in 2019. 

This is the highest figure since 2012. 

Mr Gasper Tan, chief executive officer of SOS, said: “We are extremely worried about how our elderly are coping during this public health crisis.”

The centre noted that the number of seniors who took their lives increased the most among all groups — by 26 per cent from the year before — with 154 seniors dying by suicide last year.

Among youth aged 10 to 29 and middle-aged adults between 30 and 59 years old, deaths by suicide rose by 7 per cent over the same period.

Mr Tan said that during the pandemic, seniors were more likely to face social isolation and financial worries.

“Difficulty in constantly adapting to changes as well as prolonged feelings of loneliness may be devastating,” he added. 

Overall, the suicide rate rose to 8.88 for every 100,000 Singapore residents, up from 8.0 for every 100,000 in 2019.

Adjunct Associate Professor Lee Cheng, clinical director of the Office of Population Health at the Institute of Mental Health, said that some seniors — especially those living alone — might be lacking the support needed to cope with the pandemic.

“Those who are used to attending social activities outside on a regular basis will also likely feel socially isolated,” he said.

And with many activities and initiatives for seniors being moved online since the pandemic struck, Mr Tan said that those who are not digitally savvy might feel lost or helpless.

SOS said that it recorded a drop in the number of calls from seniors to its 24-hour hotline despite the rise in suicides.

It received 4,455 calls from seniors between April last year and March this year, down from 4,816 in the year before.

The issues faced by these callers included difficulties coping with loneliness, inactivity due to isolation, psychological distress and impaired social and family relationships.

These challenges contributed to their distress during the pandemic, SOS said.

Associate Professor Helen Ko, who teaches gerontology or the study of ageing at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, urged people to find ways to reach out to their older family members or friends who may be lonely or socially isolated.

“Very often, most elderly persons want to hear a human voice and they long to hear the familiar voice of a loved one,” she said. 

NEW SOS HOTLINE

Come July 26, SOS will launch a new four-digit national hotline number 1 767 (1 SOS) to make it easier for the public to seek help. 

The toll-free hotline will operate round-the-clock. 

The centre’s current 24-hour hotline number 1800 221 4444 will remain active.

All information given to SOS is treated as confidential and people may choose to stay anonymous, the centre said.

WHERE YOU MAY SEEK HELP 

  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800 221 4444 (24 hours), or 1 767 (24 hours) from July 26

  • Singapore Association of Mental Health: 1800 283 7019 (Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm)

  • Emergency Helpline (Institute of Mental Health): 6389 2222 (24 hours)

  • Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800 353 5800 (10am-10pm)

  • Tinkle Friend: 1800 274 4788 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am-5pm)

Related topics

suicide death mental health SOS

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