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Decriminalise suicide and provide supporting measures for the vulnerable

Submitted by tnpreader on March 8, 2013 - 7:34pm

Last month, AWARE’s Miss Corinna Lim and Silver Ribbon Singapore’s (SRS) Ms Porsche Poh called on the state to decriminalise suicide; and to develop a comprehensive suicide prevention framework modelled on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations.

According to WHO, nearly one million people die from suicide each year. Depression is projected to rank second as a cause of global disability burden by 2020. And depressed people are so prone to suicide.

I fully support the call to decriminalise suicide here in Singapore.

A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn't mean that help isn't wanted. Most people who commit suicide don't want to die — they just want to stop hurting. A person who tries to commit suicide is not committing a crime, but crying out for help, and often their cries go unheard. Many people do not fully understand the pain and suffering a suicidal person goes through unless they are in their predicament themselves.

SOS and Care Corner Counselling are missing out on several hundred calls a month due to a lack of volunteers, and many of these distressed callers are grappling with mental health issues and marital problems.

In 2011, 992 people here, both locals and foreigners, were arrested for attempted suicide, a five-year high.

Do not all these send a clear message?

Data from countries that have decriminalised suicide, including Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand, show that suicide rates did not increase as a result.

Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," can effectively reduce suicide risk. One type is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help people learn new ways of dealing with stressful experiences by training them to consider alternative actions when thoughts of suicide arise.

Another type of psychotherapy called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has been shown to reduce the rate of suicide among people with borderline personality disorder, a serious mental illness characterised by unstable moods, relationships, self-image, and behavior. A therapist trained in DBT helps a person recognise when his or her feelings or actions are disruptive or unhealthy, and teaches the skills needed to deal better with upsetting situations.

- Raymond Anthony Fernando

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