Suicide on rise in Malaysia – Liow
by Mariah Doksil. Posted on September 10, 2012, Monday
KOTA KINABALU: The National Suicide Registry Malaysia statistics show suicide is on the rise in the country, with 1,156 people taking their own lives over a three-year period.
The ratio of suicides from 2007 to 2010 was 1.3 for every 100,000 people (the global average is 16 suicides for every 100,000 people), but it could be higher as these figures were based only on post-mortem reports, said Health Minister Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai .
Suicidal behaviour in Malaysia has been recognised as a major public health issue, Liow said when officiating at the state-level World Suicide Prevention Day Commemoration 2012 at the State Sports Complex in Likas yesterday.
Although the Malaysian suicide ratio may be lower compared to countries like Hong Kong with 15 per 100,000 population and Thailand with 5.6 per 100,000 population, it may be due to under-reporting for various reasons such as the stigma attached to suicide, religious concerns, social attitudes and legal reasons, he said.
“In 2011, the National Health Morbidity Survey conducted by the Ministry of Health yielded a prevalence of 1.7 percent for suicidal ideation among adults, 0.9 percent for suicide plans and 0.5 for suicide attempts,” he said.
Liow said the study also shows younger people aged 16 to 24 years, females as well as Indians had a higher risk of suicidal behaviour.
He said suicidal behaviour can result from a complex interactive biological, social, psychological and environmental factors.
Those who experienced stressful life events including family and interpersonal conflicts, relationship breakdowns, financial problems, job loss, loss of loved ones through death, physical illness and cancer are at higher risk of suicide.
Other risk factors include people with mental disorders and substance abuse and those with a history of previous suicide attempts.
The scenario of suicidal behaviour in the country may change in the future due to rapid urbanization, which also caused socio-economic and cultural changes.
The city has come to the ‘kampungs’, meaning the Malaysian community is now exposed to higher levels of stress, which may lead to depression, Liow said.
With this year’s theme “Sucide Prevention across the Globe: Strengthening Protective Factors and Instilling Hope”, efforts to prevent suicide must focus on strengthening the proactive factors and people’s resilience, he said.
“Resilience is the ability to cope with and adjust to adverse life events, having effective coping and problem-solving skills as well as positive help-seeking behaviour are proactive against the development of suicidal behaviour.
“Other proactive factors are social and cultural factors such as religious and social integration, social connectedness, good network and relationships with friends, colleagues and neighbours. These are all associated with reduced risk of suicide,” added Liow.
To address the issue of mental health and suicidal behaviour, the Ministry of Health is providing mental health services through four mental institutions and 42 hospitals throughout the country, with 124 psychiatrists, said Liow.
The ministry also provides mental health screening and healthy mind intervantion such as counseling and mental health life-skills intervention through the clinics.
At the primary health care level, he said there are family medicine specialists to conduct early detection as well as prompt treatment of mental health problems as well as depression.
The Ministry of Health is currently collaborating with the Ministry of Education to promote mental health in schools through instilling healthy minds and ensuring that students will have good coping skills.
“The responsibility for suicide prevention does not lie with one agency alone. All agencies be they government or non-governmental, have a key role to play.
“Everyone, including family members, friends, community leaders or employers can play their part.
“We must realise that suicide can be prevented. As an individual, we can reach out and offer help to those whom we know are suffering from emotional crises, depressive symptoms or having suicidal intentions,” he said.
Liow added there are simple things the public can do be part to prevent suicide behaviour such as take their problems seriously, take time to listen and show empathy, be supportive and caring, not ignoring the situation or insult them, identify their support groups like close friends, family and office mates and also seeking professional help.
He also urged the media to play an important role in preventing suicide, saying they must endeavor to provide accurate information to the public on issue regarding mental health, suicide risk and proactive factors and what family members, friends and society can do to help.
During the event, Liow also handed over presents to winners of Suicide Prevention essay writing competition organized by Kota Kinabalu Befrienders.