Suicide cases on the rise amid pandemic


MALAYSIA has seen a rise in suicide cases or near-suicide cases during the pandemic as prolonged uncertainties have put many under immense distress.

Relate Mental Health Malaysia Bhd (Relate Malaysia) clinical psychologist Lum Khay Xian said many are facing a greater amount of stress related to psychological, emotional, health and income issues as a result of the pandemic.

“This consists of financial constraints, movement restrictions, loneliness, helplessness, drastic change in their plans and some could also be dealing with domestic violence,” she told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Several key statistics, including by the National Fire and Rescue Department Operations, indicated that the department alone had responded to 88 suicide cases, with 78 people rescued, seven injured and three fatalities recorded between March and July this year.

Befrienders Malaysia received about 4,142 calls between March 18 and May 16 during the Movement Control Order period, where over a third of the calls on Covid-19 were suicidal in nature.

Lum said the figures could be underreported as the act of attempted suicide is criminalised in Malaysia. She said people must understand what drives so many to take their own lives before trying to help.

“A suicidal person is in so much pain that they can see no other option of finding relief except through death. So, the thought of committing suicide is usually an attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable.

“Despite their desire to stop the pain, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to suicide, but they can’t see one,” she said.

Lum said people around them could help by first spotting signs such as talks about suicide, feeling hopeless, withdrawing from others, and giving away their belongings.

If the person is suspected to be suicidal, she suggests initiating conversations and listening to what is being said without judging.

“Avoid saying things like ‘You have so much to live for,’ ‘Your suicide will hurt your family,’ or ‘Just snap out of it,’ and last but not least showing concern and offering help or support to them,’ she told TMR.

However, she added that when the suicidal risk is impending, it is best to call the relevant emergency hotline or hospital instead.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba in September revealed that a total of 465 attempted suicide cases, which were recorded from January to June this year, had been treated.

He said the figure is 210 cases fewer compared to the 675 cases recorded over the same period last year.

The government since March has set up initiatives such as the Psychological First Aid Hotline, a collaboration between the Health Ministry’s Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre with Mercy Malaysia, to address the matter.

Additionally, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development have also created their respective support hotlines.

Dr Adham said government hotlines received a total of 11,791 calls between March 25 until August, adding that each caller had an average of three issues that require emotional support and counselling for stress, anxiety and despair.

He also said the ministry intends to decriminalise attempted suicide so that more people can come forward and receive treatment without facing any stigma. The matter is currently under the review of the Attorney General’s Chambers.

For anyone who may be struggling, you may contact Talian Kasih at 15999 and Befrienders at 03-76272929. To seek immediate help, you may call 999.