“I want to kill myself,” your friend comes to you and says one day.

Your eyes widen slightly, at that very moment, you’re not sure how to respond. Should I take this seriously? Why is he suddenly bringing this up? He’s usually quite funny and outgoing. This is quite drastic behaviour – maybe he’s just feeling emotional. On the side, you also wonder — what could this person possibly be going through that would lead him to consider suicide? He’s been living such a good life — a caring family, a well-paying job, and the high regard of those around him

You did not have much time to think about a response, though, given that it was a live conversation. 

“Hey, are you serious? Come on, it’s not that bad,” or
 “Hahaha me too 😛 ” or 
“Um… Cheer up! You actually have many things that others don’t; think about everyone else who has it worse.”

Looking back, while you realised that those were probably not the best responses, you remember the discomfort you felt with that statement, and wonder what you could have said to help your friend better.

Perhaps you identify with the experience of uncertainty or fear when it comes to interacting with someone who confides in you about their suicidal thoughts. That person might have been someone who has been struggling with depression for a long time, or someone who seemed to “have it all”. More often than not, there’s more to their life than what meets the eyes. Everyone struggles in their own ways, even if they don’t show it.

Suicide in Singapore

Suicide is a serious problem that exists in every society, and it has become a growing concern with a total of 452 suicides reported in Singapore, the highest since 2012. In particular, the highest number of suicides were from the elderly – a jump of 26% from 2019, the highest since 1991. From 2019, there was a 7% increase in suicide deaths for middle-aged adults between 30 to 59 years old and youths aged 10 to 29 years old.

Of an equivalent concern is the finding from a survey conducted this year by Wunderman Thompson, a marketing communication agency, that 4 in 10 of the respondents had contemplated suicide at some point in 2020. Think about your friends, family, colleagues, or people you know — out of every 10 of them, approximately 4 of them could be contemplating suicide.  

Unfortunately, while we see an alarming rate of suicide ideation and increase in suicide rates across all age groups in recent years, the stigma associated with suicide remains strong.

Despite its prevalence, however, many unhelpful misconceptions continue to surround suicide and suicidal ideation.  Here are some of them: