Teen suicides in Singapore

Kudos to Talking Point for bringing up the taboo topic of teen suicides. (Video playback link is at end of page)

I will be honest, I am not comfortable discussing this topic (or even Mental wellness) to my kids simply because I lack the knowledge. There are too much social stigma and stereotypes associated with mental illness, and it is not helping with the recovery process.

teen suicides singapore

Teen Suicides are more common than we would like to believe. We read suicides reported in the media, we see friends who are depressed, and sometimes kids who feel disappointed because they could not match parents’ expectations (sad but true).

As a society, Singapore still deem suicide a taboo topic, some religions deem it a sin. It is a topic which no one (especially parents) hopes to broach. Parents might even deny that their child needs help.

Childhood years should be about play, memories and “some” studies. Death and suicide should not be on kids’ minds at such a tender age. That is my own assumption, based on my own bochap (carefree) childhood.

But statistics seems to indicate otherwise.
In 2015, there were 27 teen suicides reported.

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A few points from the forum resonated with me, and challenged my parenting style and beliefs. Some parents in the audience might need to validate our assumptions and expectations again :

– I had joined the Talking Point Forum as a concerned parent. Every suicide is one too much.
– I was curious to find out whether suicidal symptoms can be detected earlier?
– Do I really understand my kids? Do they behave differently at home and among peers?
Are they happy?

– Is my parenting style too strict or too relaxed? (dilemma!)
I practice Tough Love at home, and I am not proud to admit that I cane the kids. I always feel sad when I have to discipline the kids. But I always make it a point to explain why a child needs to be disciplined.

** You will never go wrong with this. Reinforcing to the kids (both words and intentions) that we love EVERY ONE of them, and FAMILY is always there to support them


Introducing the panel:

1) Yen Lu‘s (R) son took his own life at the age of 26. We cannot even contemplate how devastated a parent will feel at his own child’s demise 🙁

The audience benefited a lot from Yen Lu’s selfless sharing. He kept emphasizing “Listen to our kids, spend more time with them, and let them know family and kinship is everything“. He started OvertheRainbow to help more people.

2) Irene Ang is always known for her loud and comical front. But she attempted suicide not once but thrice in her teenage years! Since dying is so “difficult”, she thought it makes sense to spend more effort to solve her problems.

Since then, her mission is always to help and influence more people to think positive. “Can we prevent Teenage Suicides?” is a very serious topic, but Irene with her self-depreciating jokes was able to break the ice for us. Questions came fast and the whole session was lively and fruitful for everyone.

To see Irene seated next to Yen Lu feels surreal. Irene is very vocal and Yen Lu is chill. In their own ways, they touched the audience, and we were encouraged to raise some deep-rooted questions.

3) Dr Ong Lue Ping (2nd from L), Principal clinical Psychologist from IMH.
He is the expert and Dr Ong talks to your brain. Personally, I prefer Irene and Yen Yu’s styles, they speak to your heart and stir your emotions.

Different personalities and background experiences, but all truly belief that CHANGE must first come from within. Thank you panel speakers for such an insightful session!

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Some of the take home message and thoughts for myself.

The panel shared some of the common causes of suicidal tendencies.
Depression can be triggered by external factors such as broken family, relationship issue, bullying, low self-esteem and even studies stress (58% of deaths are related to mental illness)

Normally, we can detect and pickup the differences in a child’s behaviour and habits, temperamental etc.
But perhaps we sometimes brush it off as a passing phase, how many of us bother to offer a listening ear to a colleague, neighbour or relative?
(Yen Lu would always emphasized LISTEN with our Heart)

Suicidal thoughts do not occur overnight.
The worse things parents can do are to show a lack of empathy, to be judgmental or even trivialise the issue.

How many of us parents were “Angels” when we were young :p

We should never neglect our child’s Voice, perhaps our child might not even know they need help or consultation. (Irene highlighted that a snowballing of multiple factors over a period of time can tip us into depression)

Personally, I suspect kids are growing up too fast. Their body might be developed, but are they psychologically mature? We adults learn about problem-solving or re-focusing when we hit an issue, but kids might not have this skillset yet. Perhaps we can equip kids to handle and detect stress?

Today’s drama serials and computer games are full of violence, and deaths are portrayed very visually. Even subtitles might not censor violent terms.

Can we blame the kids if they grow up believing that death and violence is part of everyday life?
Some might be led to believe that death offers an easy way out!

~~~ ~~~

We also pickup parenting tips in the forum.

– When we help others, we are helping ourselves. Yen Lu shared 4 golden advices to help with the healing process :

a. Spouse must not blame each other
b. Acceptance, and move on
c. Find a meaning in life
d. Helping other people

(Pardon me if I miss the exact wordings).

– Let our kids have their own dreams, do not let them live out parents’ unfulfilled vision
– Encourage kids not to give up HOPE
– It is ok to fail, we Asians tend to treat failure as a shame, but we should teach ourselves and our kids to learn to pick ourselves UP after every failure

* Parents should drop their career Titles (CEO, Doctor, Professor, Principal etc) at home.
Be a DAD/Mum to your child at home, be Present in their lives.

Yen Lu mentioned we are a right-brain society, and we should teach our kids to FEEL with our hearts.
– Help our kids find their Passion and Purpose in life.

If ever we need assistance, these are the hotlines and channels available. Never give up HOPE!

We are actively engaging our kids in sports, and I hope this will toughen our kids and improve their mental strength and resilience. Sporty Family, Strong Family.

Do pop by OverTheRainbow to find out how they are reaching out to society and helping us to understand more about mental wellness.

*updated 20161108* Tapestry Project shares first-hand information from persons suffering from Mental illness

Fellow Parenting thoughts on the topic of suicide :
– Winston BlogFather
– David LifesTinyMiracles

** Toggle playback link

Author: SengkangBabies

I am a Blogging Daddy of four. Our kids are roaming Singapore to bring you FUN, This blog is use to capture our kids' growing up phases, and we want you to leave our blog with a smile :) View all posts by SengkangBabies

10 thoughts on “Teen suicides in Singapore”

  1. I have watched the show and I saw you on the screen. I cannot imagine the inner strength Mr and Mrs Chow have to be brave enough to face it, talk about it and start a community like this. Both have my admiration. It was a good discussion, I need to be more observant with my own kid too.

  2. Thanks for sharing about this topic, Andy. While our society still thinks that mental illness is a taboo, it’s actually very common, especially depression. In fact I believe most of us know someone or personally has depression of certain degree. I believe mental illnesses should be treated more like physical illnesses in the way we discuss about it. It’s really not sth the person involved can just “get out of” because proper diagnosis and treatments are necessary. When our loved ones are diagnosed with physical illnesses, we seldom think twice about rallying support and help for them. But due to the stigma still surrounding mental illnesses, many people still try to hide/ ignore/ deny it. And that usually worsen the situation for the person involved. Our society has come a long way in dealing with mental illnesses, but we still have a long way to go to provide better support for those affected.
    Dawn recently posted…[Blog Train] Day in a Life of a Working MomMy Profile

  3. Thanks for sharing, Andy. It is a very real topic and social norms gets more and more complicated as our kids grows older. And I totally agree that we need to let our kids know that family and kinship are most important because often than not, it is family who helps us tide through bad times.

  4. I used to brush off suicides as an act of cowardice. But really, it’s so sad to think one person could feel so depressed and helpless to the point of taking their own life. I cannot imagine being in Yen Lu’s position and the strength both him and his wife have to recover. I’m also a tough love parent. It isn’t easy to strike the fine balance between letting them know there’s always mummy and daddy to run back to and motivating them to stand on their own. But as parents, we try. I will try.
    Michelle recently posted…GIVEAWAY: 5 Pairs of KidZania Entry TicketsMy Profile

  5. Good reminder to listen with our heart!!! Often times, we are too busy with our kids n everyday tasks that we tend to forget to listen properly… Great article especially that there is help out there but help comes from within too!!!

  6. I think this statement that you say, “But perhaps we sometimes brush it off as a passing phase, how many of us bother to offer a listening ear to a colleague, neighbour or relative?” is very true.

    Very often, when my kids are going through a difficult time, I realised many people tell me ït’s just a phase. They will get over it.” I think this is quite unhealthy if you always take it for granted that shitty things will eventually turn well by themselves?

    One death is too much for anyone.. I hope as parents, we give our children the flexibility to learn and grow. I always think having EQ is always better than having perfect results.
    Jacqualine recently posted…Miss K’s 7th Month Milestone: Starting on solids!My Profile

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