By Muhammad Basir Roslan
It is shocking to know that suicide rates in our beloved Malaysia have increased by 60% over the past 45 years, according to a study conducted by the Malaysian Psychiatric Association!
As highlighted by Bob Stone, suicide accounts for about 800,000 deaths annually as according to World Health Organisation (WHO) data up to 2012. Recent data from WHO also shows that the top five countries with highest suicide rates are Guyana, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Swaziland and Russia with rates counted from 32.5 to 25.3 people per 100,000 of the population and surprisingly, the data for Malaysia’s rate is recorded as 0.6 per 100,000 as a matter of comparison.
Another shocking fact stated by the WHO statistics is that suicide cases jump to the second leading cause of death when looking specifically at youths, among 15-29-year-old globally in 2012.
University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) consultant psychiatrist, Dr. Muhamad Muhsin Ahmad Zahari stated that statistics show 12% of Malaysians, aged between 18 and 60, suffer mental health problems and this is one of the leading factors contributing to committing of suicide.
According to a study published by Asia-Pacific Psychiatry journal, the findings showed that the suicide rate among Malaysian youths was 1.03 per 100,000 populations in 2009, accounting for the male gender (66.0%), with Indians leads to be the highest suicides (40.4% and 5.6 per 100,000 populations).
The most common method of suicide was hanging themselves to death (56.6%) and followed by self-poisoning (15.1%) as reported in a study titled ‘Suicide among the youth in Malaysia: What do we know?”. To be brief, the highest incidence of suicide among youths in Malaysian appear to be male and of Indian descent.
According to Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk M. Saravanan, on the review of suicide cases in Malaysia, the risk factors among Malaysian Indians which could explain the higher number of suicide attempts in this group include poverty (where a majority of Indians are from the lower social class), alcoholism problem, psychiatry morbidity, caste issues, other social distress, cultural and religious factors, and attitude to suicide.
“On the other hand, it is much more difficult for Muslim Malays to commit suicide since it is against their religious beliefs. Education has also contributed to some differences; 89% of the studies showed that suicide attempters had the secondary level of education compared to primary and tertiary,” he added.
How can we know and detect the signs of suicidal intention?
There are some prominent signs that can help us to check whether the person we know wants to attempt suicide. Firstly, they have made an attempt to commit suicide. They also always keep on talking about their plan to commit suicide or even hinting that he or she thinks about it even from our perspective that he maybe joking about it. In addition, they may have possessed the weapon including pills, alcohol, razor blades, ropes or even guns that they may use to commit suicide. In addition, they repeatedly demonstrate suicidal symptoms in conversation and behaviour and they have experienced a recent, deeply-felt crisis and problem. They also have mental illness, faced with alcoholism or drug abuse problems. Lastly, they are experiencing terminal illness or chronic pain as well as social isolation and loneliness.
How can we help them?
Highlighted here are the roles that can be divided in three parts; role as an individual, as Non-government Organisations (NGO) and the government’s roles on how to tackle this suicide problem specifically in Malaysia.
• Role as individual
Firstly, as an individual that is close to them (the person that wants or have the intention to attempt suicide) must stay in contact with them either by telephone or using interpersonal communication with them. We must ask him or her to tell and share about his or her feelings and plan. We must be a good listener for them and show our compassion to help them solve the problem they are confronted with. Secondly, try to find out what the major problems they are facing and discuss with them seriously how to solve the problem. Thirdly, try to know what potentials they have shown for committing suicide. Have they tried to hurt themselves before? Or do they have a plan to do so? Has he experienced a crisis? Does he have a weapon or a way to hurt himself? Lastly, do ask assistance from someone we trust to help us know what to do with the situation, for example, religious leaders, their own parents, a school counsellor or teacher, a doctor or a police officer.
• NGO’s roles
In Malaysia, we have various NGO bodies that are always concerned on the alarming level of suicide cases that have occurred and they have given their best in providing services and help to solve this problem. One of it is Befrienders that have the vision and mission to create awareness among public to counter the prevailing helplessness faced by most victims.
Ardy Ayadali, the publicity director of Befrienders said that “Creating awareness is one of the crucial keys where we tell people who the suicidal are and that they don’t have to suffer alone”, and that help is available. It is important to listen to them non-judgmentally and be very warm and caring.
Befrienders is the only NGO in Malaysia that advocates publicly for suicide prevention, and the headquarters is in Kuala Lumpur working 24/7 and that means help is available at any time of the day.
Other local NGO body that also offers public services on settling this issue is Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (IKRAM) where they are also helping in raising the awareness about mental illness by running various programs related to it. The President of IKRAM, Dr. Mohd Parid Sheikh Ahmad said that this organisation would look into the perspective of psychiatry, psychology and counseling through programs related to family, teenagers, children, laws, public service and social work.
• Government’s roles
Our Malaysian government also offers various bodies and programmes to obverse this issue. They have National Mental Health Strategic Action Plan that will lay out effective measures to tackle this problem. They also imposed National Mental Health Policy and The Mental Health Act 2001. Komuniti Sihat Perkasa Negara or Kospen is also a special programme conducted and supervised by the Health Ministry that promotes the healthy lifestyle through exercises and encourage the public to do health screenings.
It is good to remind ourselves that we cannot afford to lose hopes and dependence on our God, since Allah had mentioned about having full faith in Him even when we are facing serious problems and committing suicide is not the way to end the suffering. In his Holy Quran, Allah said: “And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord except for those astray?” (Al-Hijr:56). Return to Allah and ask His Guidance when we have problems, because He knows what is better for us. ***