Recent teen suicides showed no warning signs
MOE reviewing ways to prevent teen suicides
There were often no warning signs in the recent teen suicides that were highlighted by the media.
Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary related this observation in Parliament yesterday, after Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan highlighted some cases involving students that were reported by the media recently.
Mr Lim had asked if these students reported any distress signs before the suicides, and why these signs were not detected.
He was asking a follow-up question on the topic of teen suicides, which was raised by two MPs, MP for Sembawang GRC Lim Wee Kiak and MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Saktiandi Supaat, in Parliament yesterday.
According to recently released figures from the Samaritans of Singapore, 27 children aged between 10 and 19 ended their lives last year - a record for the age group in 15 years.
Last week, The New Paper reported that two students from a top junior college took their lives within 10 days of each other in August.
In his reply to Mr Lim, Dr Puthucheary said: "The Ministry reviews every case. Often, there were no warning signs, so we need to find out the other stressors that were not picked up by the existing system and processes that we have."
He added that the ministry is doing a further review of strategies and possible interventions to prevent suicides.
Nonetheless, experts approached by TNP said that most cases show distress signals.
But there could be exceptions, said Ms Lee Yi Ping, senior youth support worker from the community health assessment team at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).
She explained: "One common reason is that the suicide was an impulsive act without premeditation, hence no one could have done anything to change the outcome."
Ms Iris Lin, senior social worker at Fei Yue who works with youth, said that she has not encountered cases where there were no warning signs at all.
"I can only guess, but it could be because they do not want to worry their families with their problems.
"Or they might hold roles and responsibilities in school and are seen as problem-solvers instead of having problems," said Ms Lin.
Ms Lee added that there are circumstances that could put teenagers at a higher risk of suicide that parents can look out for.
They include a personal crisis or life stress, especially one that increases a sense of isolation or loss of self-esteem, such as failing or doing badly in a major exam.
It could also be an exposure to the suicidal behaviour of family members, friends, peers or celebrities.
Dr Ong Say How, chief and senior consultant of the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at IMH, said: "While it can be especially hard when there are no warning signs, parents need to be in the know of major events that are happening in their children's lives."
He added that the positive effect of a warm, nurturing and cohesive family will increase the chances of a child growing up resilient.
Ms Lin stressed that it takes a "village to raise a child".
She said: "Perhaps the focus could also be on educating parents and schools.
"If the child does not show any warning signs at home, he could be showing these signs at school.
"Life and death is at stake here, it is okay to be more anxious about this issue."
While it can be especially hard when there are no warning signs, parents need to be in the know of major events that are happening in their children's lives.
- Dr Ong Say How, chief and senior consultant of the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at IMH