KUCHING: Much more can be done by the government, the media and the community as a whole to address the people’s mental health, especially during the pandemic, as this is a crucial move towards tackling factors that could contribute to an increase in suicide cases in the country.
In saying this, Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii — in line with this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day’s theme ‘Creating Hope Through Action’ — suggested several steps that could be taken by all including the government to holistically address the issue.
Firstly, attempted suicide should be decriminalised, he said, adding those who attempted suicide needed all the support and help. They should not be treated like criminals or be thrown into jail, which might exacerbate the problem.
“The media play an important role in how they report the serious issue of suicide.
“There must be a roundtable session with our nation’s media executives, mental health representatives, and clinicians to develop and enforce a set of media guidelines for reporting on suicide,” he said in a statement recently.
In addition, he said the public and social media pages must be responsible and not circulate videos or pictures of suicide or attempts as it can trigger ‘copy-cats’ and create more harm to those going through a tough time.
“Each of us can learn how to recognise early symptoms of possible suicide. From there, we should take the extra step to call our loved ones, our friends, and our neighbours and ask them how they are during this tough period,” he said.
Dr Yii also emphasised the need for the public to assist affected persons in seeking professional help and connecting them with services that could help with their situation.
“There is undoubtedly a need for better empathy and education surrounding the issue in order to help even our family members, loved ones, friends, or colleagues,” he said.
He urged people to remember the 3 ‘E’s’ when dealing with such circumstances — engage, empathise and encourage.
Dr Yii pointed out that suicide rates were still far too high, citing the World Health Organisation (WHO) which stated that more than 700,000 people die by suicide every year.
“That is one suicide committed every 40 seconds. And for each suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts,” he said.
He said that suicides and suicide attempts did not just end with the individual but rather had a ripple effect impacting family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours, communities and societies.
The MP pointed out that in Malaysia, police statistics showed that from 2019 to July this year, suicide rates were now much higher.
“There were 638 suicides recorded in the first seven months of this year, compared to a total of 262 cases for the same period last year. This is a staggering 143 percent increase in cases. It has even surpassed the total number of cases reported in year 2020, which was 631, and 609 in 2019,” he said.
Dr Yii added that the pandemic had certainly contributed to the rising number of suicide cases as people struggled with job insecurity, isolation, loneliness, and mental health concerns.
“A recent study that was released revealed the increase of suicide ideation (thoughts of committing suicide) by 10.81 percent, attempted suicide by 4.68 percent, and self-harm by 9.68 percent during the Covid-19 pandemic in comparison to pre-pandemic days.
“For every one of those deaths, it is estimated that 135 family members and friends will suffer the impact whether emotionally or socio-economically,” he said.
Therefore, he stressed that now was the time for more action to be taken and to make it clear that it was alright to talk about suicide.
“Let us remember: each and every one of us plays a role in suicide prevention. Suicide is preventable. We just need to pay attention and be empathetic and kinder to those in need,” said Dr Yii.