Suicide remains leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 29 in S’pore

There were a total of 400 reported suicides in Singapore in 2019, up from 397 in 2018, Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) said in a release in Aug. 3, 2020.

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Suicides increased across most age groups

Most age groups registered a slight increase in the number of suicide deaths in 2019.

Deaths as a result of suicide dropped to 8.00 per 100,000 Singapore residents from 8.36 in 2018.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for youths aged 10 to 29.

Notably, the number of suicide deaths amongst those aged 20 to 29 years remains highest compared to all other age groups.

20 to 29 years old group vulnerable

In 2019, 71 youths aged between 20 and 29 years took their own lives.

Suicide accounts for about one-third of all reported deaths in this age group.

Seeking help

Of those who revealed their age, youths between 20 to 29 years old accounted for approximately 17 per cent of total calls attended to on the 24-hour hotline, and making up for about 37 per cent of Email Befriending clients.

In particular, the number of calls from this age group rose to 4,124, up from 3,396 calls in the previous fiscal year ending March 2019.

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Problems encountered

Through interactions with clients, SOS observed that these individuals often cite issues with romantic relationships, difficulties coping with one’s mental health and struggles managing challenging situations as contributing factors that led to their acute distress.

In a survey recently conducted by SOS to understand the community’s perception towards suicide, one in three in the 20 to 29 age group, responded that they will not consider contacting others for help when they are emotionally overwhelmed.

Stigmatising beliefs around suicide emerged as a common barrier to seeking help for this group.

The fear of embarrassment, being judged, along with the sense of hopelessness that nothing will help, were prominent reasons that surfaced in the survey findings.

A total of 2,497 respondents participated in the survey, of which 580 were aged 20 to 29.

Gasper Tan, Chief Executive of SOS, said: “While the rise in calls is an encouraging sign that youths are recognising the importance of their mental health and need for early intervention, the high number of suicide deaths in this age group is concerning.”

“Much more remains to be done as a community to further understand and address the issues that may prevent our youths from seeking help”.

Highlighting the integral role of advocacy in recent years, he added: “As the lead agency in suicide prevention, SOS will continue to harness these efforts, drawing on the strength, support and network of the community in our programmes and outreach”.

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SOS text-based service introduced

The launch of SOS’ text-based service, SOS Care Text, has been brought forward in recognition of the hesitation of calling the hotline for some individuals in distress or contemplating suicide and their preference for another option through text messaging.

Referring to the increase in the number of calls into the 24-hour Hotline and emails during the Circuit Breaker period, Tan said: “During these trying times, it is crucial that SOS is able to readily provide an alternative form of emotional support while catering to the changing communication preferences of the community.”

Respondents to the SOS survey had also indicated text-based services as the most preferred platform to seek help, reflecting the timely introduction of this offering.

About SOS

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) is a secular, non-profit suicide prevention centre.

Established 1969, SOS has developed into a professionally run and managed organisation that adopts a holistic approach to suicide-related topics, focusing on prevention, intervention and postvention, an intervention conducted after a suicide for loved ones and friends.

With the mission to be an available lifeline to anyone in crisis, SOS offers emotional support to people in crisis, thinking of suicide, or affected by suicide.

All information shared with SOS is treated as confidential and people can choose to remain anonymous.

Top photo via Unsplash

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Perspective | It’s time we stopped with the phrase “gifted and talented”

By Stephanie Sprenger
@mommyforreal

Last week, I saw two toddlers wearing “Genius” T-shirts. When I saw the first one, I smiled, as I undeniably have a soft spot for ironic baby clothing. But when just hours later the second “genius” came waddling along, it gave me pause. I know these clever shirts proclaiming that our children are “brave like Daddy” or “sassy like Mommy” are just supposed to be funny and cute. Yet I feel slightly troubled by what lies under the surface of our attempts to label our children with myriad superlatives.

The “Genius” one left a distinctly bad taste in my mouth, and after a few days of pondering, I realized why. It was a tiny incarnation of the “gifted and talented” program, which is a concept I’ve been struggling with as a parent.

When I was in 5th grade, I was selected to participate in TAG (yes, talented and gifted), a program that took place during two hours of every Friday afternoon. I recall playing challenging brain games that required teamwork and higher-level questioning, completing independent study projects, on one occasion making a collage about photography (hmmm), and then trotting merrily back to class with my other above-average classmates.

I moved the following year, and was placed in a similar program with a different name: Alpha. Was it, shudder, because we were “alpha students?” It was my first and last meeting. Although I carried straight A’s—aside from my B in P.E.—after a snide comment from one of my fellow Alpha students, I chose never again to participate in a gifted and talented program.

Over the years, I’ve heard it referred to as ULE—Unique Learning Experience—and Exceptional Learners, but where I live now it’s straight up “GT—gifted and talented.” My experience with GT as a parent of non-GT students has been eye-opening.

When my oldest daughter, now 13, was in Montessori preschool, the staff provided a parent meeting where we could ask questions about kindergarten and elementary school options. Hands shot up all around the room: “Tell us more about the GT programs in the district.” “When can we test for GT?” Aside from the occasional inquiry about bilingual education programs, it was pretty much the same: How do we get into the GT program?

My husband and I raised our eyebrows at each other. Who knew that all this time our precocious little darling had been surrounded by entirely gifted students? Over the next few years, acquaintances would ask me when I was getting my daughter tested for GT. “I’m not,” I usually replied simply. The high-pressure program was not something I wanted for my child, who now is a 4.0 honor roll student in middle school. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure she qualified for GT; her grades have much more to do with her personality and determination. But the entire operation left a bad taste in my mouth.

Semantics matter to me, perhaps more than most people. Don’t even get me started on my hang-ups about the word “blessed.” To me, being “gifted and talented” sounds a whole lot like being bestowed with a well, gift, that others were not granted. It’s pretentious, and slightly obnoxious.

However, the value of these programs is undeniable. There are students whose needs are not being met in a one-size-fits-all curriculum: a multitude, and not just the above average variety. It is difficult to comprehend the challenge of teachers who must constantly adapt their learning experience to the diverse group of students they teach. These programs are absolutely essential and provide a much-needed, enriching, stimulating education for the kids who are becoming bored in their classrooms, who are potentially even causing problems because they aren’t being challenged.

The future of New York City’s public gifted and talented programming is now in the spotlight, thanks to the mayor-appointed School Diversity Advisory Group’s recommendation that the existing GT programs be replaced by magnet schools. A group of gifted education teachers have instead called for an overhaul and reform of the system instead of elimination, which they hope may affect other GT programs around the country. But perhaps there is more fundamental reform required than altering the selection process and addressing the issues of economic privilege and racial segregation.

Perhaps what we really need to address is what we call these programs and the way parents conceive of them. The pressure behind TAG, including the language we use to describe it, needs to change. So too the frenetic rush to test our kids, not necessarily because we want to accommodate their learning style, but because of the proclamation that they are gifted and talented and therefore destined for a higher purpose, will lead to a breeding ground of stress, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. And what does it do to the kids who are excluded from this elite group?

I often cringe when I hear someone counter the name of these kind of programs with the sentiment that “All kids are gifted and talented in their own way.” Because it sounds so trite—the equivalent of a participation award. And yet. At the risk of revealing myself as a special snowflake kind of person, I do believe all children are gifted and talented. Whether they are athletic, artistic, deeply empathetic, or bold leaders, or simply themselves. Platitudes be damned, they are all gifted and talented in their own way.

It’s time to change the labels of these advanced or specialized learning classrooms to reflect that. Our children are paying attention, and they can absolutely read between the lines. What kind of message do we want to send them?

Stephanie is a writer, mother of two girls, early childhood educator and music therapist, and Executive Producer of Listen To Your Mother Denver and Boulder.

Image: an actual shirt that was given to one of our editor’s children.

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In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, our lolas are at higher risk due to their old age and lack of income. #HausGoldenGays is a fundraising campaign hosted by Preen.ph for the benefit of The Golden Gays. The donations collected from the drive will be used to help provide for home accommodation, utilities, food, medicine and other supplies needed by the group during the quarantine. One of the lolas, Federico de los Santos Ramasamy aka Lola Rikka, passed away and on Sunday was cremated. Proceeds will also be used to cover expenses related to his passing.

Let’s give back to our elderly drag queens who have served as inspirations and advocates for the Filipino LGBTQ+ community. You may send in your donations through GCASH at 0965 8544 619 or Paymaya at 0916 596 5455.

Let’s help our elderly queens stay golden! 

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