What are the warning signs parents must be aware of?
With thoughts of suicide from children as young as 10 years old, we can’t help but worry about the increase in suicidal behaviour in Singaporean children. You might not know this, but according to Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 10-29.
Do you remember about the boy who fell to his death at Fernvale Link after he failed two subjects in his exams?
In 2015 to 2016, a total of 77 children aged five to nine and 4,563 aged 10 to 19 called the SOS hotline. The total more than doubled from statistics collected in 2012 to 2013.
A total of 429 lives were lost to suicide in 2016. And out of that total, 22 of them were aged between 10 to 19.
Contributing Factors to Suicidal Behaviour in Singaporean Children
Psychologists think that social media is to blame, as well as the lack of strong family bonds. Stress from peers and parents, with expectations geared towards high academic achievement, also plays a crucial role. When parents expect nothing less than the best from children, this can start to affect their social skills, health and overall happiness.
When trying to understand suicidal behaviour in Singaporean children, clinical psychologist Dr Carol Balhetchet puts it simply.
“With suicide, no matter what age, it always seems like the taking back of power. The idea that I can take back control over myself. It is seen as a last resort when one feels like no one wants to listen to them.”
When parents are too busy and occupied with work and life, the window of opportunity for children to open up and talk to their parents becomes smaller and smaller. In the end, children fend for themselves and are unable to get the emotional support that they need.
It is important to note, said another clinical psychologist, Mr Lawrence Tan, that the frontal cortex of younger children is not fully developed yet. As a result, children are unable to comprehend the gravity of suicide. Some might not even understand that suicide is irreversible.
Parents, Take Signs of Suicidal Behaviour Seriously
Suicidal behaviour in Singaporean children should not be taken lightly. In fact, parents should take ALL suicidal behaviour seriously. Even if there have been threats before that resulted in nothing, this does not mean that the risk is not there.
Even if the child just wanted to get attention from their parents by threatening suicide, accidents can happen.
According to Dr Balhetchet, many Singaporean children suffer from loneliness, and from a lack of social and emotional support. Families play an important role in showing children that it is okay to be sad or to have problems. And they need to be there to support them through it.
The Ministry of Education has come up with some preventive measures such as putting emphasis on resilience-building through direct teaching and providing a supportive school environment. Students are also taught socio-emotional skills such as time management, goal-setting, coping with stress, and handling expectations.
Teachers are always on the lookout for suicidal behaviour in Singaporean children, particularly in students who display signs of distress, anxiety, abnormal behaviour and withdrawal.
Other Warning Signs
A clear indication of suicidal behaviour in Singaporean children is when they start saying things like:
- “My family will be better off without me”
- “My life is meaningless anyway”
- “If you don’t love me, I’ll kill myself”