Doc: Take child's suicide threats seriously
Expert says those who threaten suicide are just seeking attention is a myth
Parents must not ignore children who express suicidal thoughts or mention suicide, said experts.
Dr Ong Say How, senior consultant and chief of the department of developmental psychiatry at the Institute of Mental Health, said: "All suicide threats or attempts must be taken seriously.
"The perception that people who threaten suicide are just seeking attention and people who talk about suicide will not really commit suicide are some of the common myths people have about suicide."
Experts said while the rise of suicidal thoughts or actions in younger children can be attributed to a variety of reasons, there are ways to prevent or manage such feelings.
Ms Christine Wong, executive director of Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), a non-profit suicide prevention centre, said: "Equipping students with positive coping mechanisms, problem-solving skills, and emotional management capabilities can help them better manage the stressors in their environment."
Dr Ong added: "It is important to educate children that failures and setbacks are to be expected. Allow them to make mistakes as it helps them develop a sense of responsibility, mastery and confidence."
Dr Ong and psychologists such as Mr Lawrence Tan and Dr Carol Balhetchet stressed the importance of strong familial bonds in cultivating emotional resilience in children.
Dr Ong said: "The positive effect of a resilient family would also increase the chance of the child growing up resilient.
"A warm, nurturing and cohesive family is critical as it allows the child to feel loved, safe and secure, and builds a sense of self-worth and self-competence."
He suggests doing things together as a family, maintaining family traditions and a shared belief system to help build resilience in the family and children.
SOS offers a training programme, Emotional Resilience Series, that helps young people cope in turbulent times.
Ms Wong said children would not bring up suicide unless they are going through an extremely distressing period in their lives.
She said: "Recognising these signs and listening to their struggles will encourage children to talk about their experiences.
"Having someone with them can help them feel less alone and uncertain of their experiences."
Caregivers who suspect a child is suicidal can contact SOS by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling its 24-hour hotline on 1800-221-4444.
Samaritans of Singapore 1800-221-4444
Singapore Association for Mental Health 1800-283-7019
Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline 6389-2222
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin) 1800-353-5800
Shan You Counselling Centre (Mandarin) 6741-0078
Silver Ribbon 6386-1928
Tinkle Friend 1800-274-4788
Signs of suicidal thoughts
- Expressions of hopelessness or helplessness
- Overwhelming sense of shame or guilt
- Dramatic change in personality or appearance
- Irrational or bizarre behaviour
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Severe drop in school or work performance
- Lack of interest in the future
- Giving away prized possessions
- Dr Ong Say How, senior consultant and chief of the department of developmental psychiatry at the Institute of Mental Health