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To help prevent suicides, reach out and lend an ear to those around you

"It takes a village to raise a child."

Likewise, it takes a village to prevent suicides from happening.

The rise in suicides last year is worrying but not surprising, especially with Covid-19 restrictions limiting one’s coping mechanisms and heightening feelings of isolation and uncertainties about the future and livelihoods.

Singapore has nationwide mental health initiatives and, in recent years, there have been efforts to raise awareness of mental health.

But are our programmes effective? Will they reduce suicide rates in our country?

And, if another pandemic hits, can we go further in helping individuals facing mental health issues?

As a suicide prevention advocate, I strongly encourage all members of society to equip themselves with the knowledge and skills to develop and deliver interventions that can improve mental health in our community, workplaces and schools — especially in suicide prevention.

For a start, learn to spot telltale signs of a mental health issue and provide help by guiding sufferers to avenues of support.

While each situation is different, it is important to be aware of warning signs that someone may be considering suicide.

These include withdrawing from family and social circles, losing interest in once-enjoyable activities, and expressing hopelessness and helplessness.

When we are aware, we can check to make sure that the individual is okay.

When it comes to saving a friend or loved one contemplating suicide, there is only one thing that one can do wrong. And that is to do nothing.

Everyone has a part to play in suicide prevention.

Sometimes, a buddy who sits with them can make a difference between life and death.

It can be as simple as "are you free for coffee?" to get a conversation going.

Having been through a crisis and even attempting to take my life once have changed my view on those living with depression and suicidal thoughts.

I am thankful for a friend who asked the right questions and helped me see things differently.

If you feel someone may be thinking about suicide or having difficulty with mental health, approach him or her.

Trust your suspicions and take all threats of suicide seriously.

Let them know what they mean to you and that they are not alone.

Help them recall how they coped in other crises and gently ask direct questions about their intentions.

“Are you thinking of harming yourself?”

“Are you looking at killing yourself?”

“Are you planning to commit suicide?”

With the right knowledge and skills to approach someone at risk, everyone can play his or her part as gatekeepers.

Let us start by being willing and ready to ask questions.

When we ask a question, we can save a life.

To read the full article on TODAYonline, click here.


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