Suicide rate among people in their 20s worry experts
Experts also worry about impact of Covid-19 this year as SOS offers text-based help to those in distress
Of the 400 people who killed themselves in Singapore last year, 71 were in their 20s.
In a release yesterday, the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) noted that the number of suicides among the 20 to 29 age cohort remains the highest compared with other age groups.
Experts are concerned that suicide accounted for one-third of all reported deaths in this age group last year, based on Immigration and Checkpoints Authority data released last week.
There were 4,124 calls to SOS from this group between April 2019 and March 2020 compared with 3,396 in the same period a year earlier.
SOS also said those in their 20s accounted for 17 per cent of calls made to its 24-hour hotline and about 37 per cent of Email Befriending clients.
It noted that issues with romantic relationships, difficulties coping with mental health and struggles with managing challenging situations were the most often cited reasons for distress.
Clinical psychologist Carol Balhetchet said twentysomethings are in a transitional period of their lives, and the added stress from Covid-19 this year could have a significant impact on their mental well-being.
She said this period in their lives is when they must manage the transition to adulthood, relationships and working life.
"But with social isolation now and with jobs hard to come by, they are going to feel more stressed," she added.
Echoing this sentiment, SOS chief executive Gasper Tan said: "The societal expectations of what success looks like often shape how an individual measures achievements in the various aspects of life.
"As young people may tie their self-worth according to what may be most prevalent in the life stage they are in, failing to attain their desired outcome may aggravate feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in times of crisis," he said.
A survey by SOS found that one in three people in their 20s who have suicidal thoughts would not seek help.
The survey of 2,500 respondents, including 580 in their 20s, found that the stigma of suicide was a common barrier, with the fear of embarrassment and being judged being prominent reasons.
Overall, the figure of 400 suicides reported last year continues an upward trend from the 397 cases in 2018 and 361 in 2017, though it is lower than the 429 in 2016.
SOS launched the pilot Care Text Service last month, which allows those in distress to contact them through text messaging on Facebook.
It said the number of calls and e-mails it received saw a spike during the circuit breaker.
Mr Tan said: "In this time when we are physically distanced from one another to stay safe, feelings of loneliness and helplessness may be amplified.
"It is crucial that SOS is able to readily provide an alternative form of emotional support while catering to the changing communication preferences of the community."
Social entrepreneur and mental health advocate Anthea Ong is particularly worried about how Covid-19 may impact this year's suicide statistics.
"What we are discussing now are historical numbers from 2019, from better times," said the former nominated MP.
"My deep sense of foreboding comes from how much more these numbers could increase because of Covid-19."
She said a woman committed suicide at the block next to hers last Thursday, and a suicide support group had told her about four young people aged 16 to 22 who killed themselves within the span of a week in June.
"I want all who are struggling to know that they are not alone, and it is not their personal failure... Please, come forward and share your suffering and struggles," she said.
Ms Ong also called on those who are approached by people in distress to do their part.
"If somebody reaches out, just give them your time and listen," she said.
"Don't offer advice, don't offer solutions, just ask how you can support them and make them feel better.
"Let them know the world is not coming to an end because someone cares. You don't know how important that can be during moments of despair."
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Institute of Mental Health helpline: 6389-2222
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788