MPs seek to raise awareness of mental health
Campaign will include guided discussions between residents, grassroots leaders
While working in the Singapore Civil Defence Force in 2001 and 2002, Dr Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah came across a person who was suicidal and wanted to jump from a height. Fortunately, he chose not to end his life.
"That was my first instance of understanding that many people go through this... (It) was not my only experience with individuals attempting suicide, some unfortunately did not end well. It opened my eyes," said Dr Wan Rizal, who is an MP for Jalan Besar GRC.
The experience left a deep impression on him and spurred him to learn more about mental health and well-being in his work as an educator and MP.
This month, Dr Wan Rizal is leading a group of 18 MPs from the People's Action Party in a campaign to raise awareness of and generate discussions about mental health concerns.
The campaign, which runs from Sept 10 to Sept 30, follows a July report by non-profit suicide prevention centre Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) which said 452 suicides were reported in Singapore last year, the highest figure since 2012, and a 13 per cent increase from 2019's 400 cases.
Titled #452TooMany, the campaign is a way to raise awareness about mental health issues and encourage people to seek help, said Dr Wan Rizal.
"Mental health issues affect everyone. Every one of us reacts differently to stress. This pandemic has highlighted a few issues because of the circumstances we are in," he added.
Participating MPs will be organising guided discussions on mental health and suicide prevention with residents and grassroots and community leaders virtually or in person.
Mental health practitioners will join the MPs and make use of tool kits and resources provided by Dr Wan Rizal's mental health advisory team. The kits contain guided questions to promote discussions and find solutions to concerns raised by participants.
According to an Institute of Mental Health (IMH) study released on Sept 10, one in 13 adults in Singapore thought about suicide at some point in their lives.
The findings, which were released on World Suicide Prevention Day, are from the second Singapore Mental Health Study conducted between 2016 and 2018 and involved 6,126 participants, aged 18 years and above, representing Singapore's general population.
Those with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and alcohol use disorder were found more likely to have thoughts about suicide, plan or attempt suicide compared with individuals without mental disorders.
Dr Mythily Subramaniam, assistant chairman of IMH's Medical Board (Research), said: "We need to learn to recognise the warning signs and not shy away from talking about suicide or seeking help when needed. There are several avenues of support and resources available in the community for individuals facing distress or thinking about suicide," Dr Mythily said.
"We have a responsibility to support each other, acknowledge the distress felt by others, and encourage them to seek help."