MORE NEEDED TO AD­DRESS MEN­TAL HEALTH IS­SUES

Many ado­les­cents think sui­cide can solve their prob­lems be­cause they can’t han­dle re­jec­tion

New Straits Times - - Opinion - adibpovera.salleh@gmail.com The writer, born in Kuala Lumpur, raised in Perak, is NST Sarawak bu­reau chief. A na­ture lover, he never tires of dis­cov­er­ing new sights in the Land of the Horn­bills

THREE friends were busy scrolling their smart­phones while wait­ing for break­fast to be served at a fa­mous laksa Sarawak restau­rant in Jalan Pe­tanak, Kuch­ing, last month.

One of them sud­denly gasped in dis­be­lief, “Ch­ester Ben­ning­ton died?” The other friend was mut­ter­ing some­thing as his eyes re­main fixed on the smart­phone, prob­a­bly read­ing re­ports on the death of the lead singer of rock band Linkin Park.

The three were among mil­lions of mu­sic lovers around the world who were shocked by the death of the 41-year-old mu­si­cian, who com­mit­ted sui­cide at a pri­vate res­i­dence in Los An­ge­les on July 21.

Ben­ning­ton died on the birthday of his good friend fel­low mu­si­cian, Chris Cor­nell, who also com­mit­ted sui­cide two months ear­lier. Both re­port­edly died by hang­ing.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, more than 500 del­e­gates, com­pris­ing men­tal health ex­perts and mem­bers of non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions from 50 coun­tries, were con­verg­ing at the Bor­neo Con­ven­tion Cen­tre Kuch­ing for the 29th World Congress of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for Sui­cide Preven­tion (IASP) as news of Ben­ning­ton’s death spread.

Themed “Prevent­ing Sui­cide: A Global Com­mit­ment, from Com­mu­ni­ties to Con­ti­nents”, del­e­gates de­lib­er­ated on statis­tics on sui­cide cases as well as dis­cussed com­pre­hen­sive sui­cide preven­tion strate­gies.

Ac­cord­ing to World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) statis­tics, al­most 800,000 peo­ple die from sui­cide an­nu­ally, which is equiv­a­lent to one death every 40 sec­onds. And for every per­son who dies by sui­cide, about 20 of their fam­ily and friends are af­fected. The most com­mon meth­ods of sui­cide in­clude con­sum­ing pes­ti­cide, hang­ing and us­ing firearms.

On the home front, an av­er­age 2,000 peo­ple die by sui­cide every year. Although sui­cide rates in Malaysia are quite low com­pared with the global in­dex, the issue should still be se­ri­ously looked at. Even more so when the lat­est Na­tional Health and Mor­bid­ity Sur­vey found al­most 30 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion have men­tal health prob­lems.

Men­tal health disor­ders, in­clud­ing de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, are con­trib­u­tors to sui­cide. Ver­bal and phys­i­cal bul­ly­ing and cy­ber­bul­ly­ing are also fac­tors, pres­sur­ing the op­pressed to com­mit sui­cide.

IASP pres­i­dent Ella Arens­man ad­mit­ted that the rapid growth of so­cial me­dia had be­come a bane for in­ter­na­tional bod­ies to in­ter­vene when some­one was ex­posed to cy­ber­bul­ly­ing.

“I thought this neg­a­tive phe­nom­e­non (cy­ber­bul­ly­ing) may not have en­tered coun­tries in Africa, but it was proven other­wise dur­ing my trip to Namibia re­cently.

“I have al­ready seen the im­pact of some very neg­a­tive so­cial me­dia ex­po­sures, as for ex­am­ple when peo­ple are be­ing ex­posed and talk very graph­i­cally about sui­cide, which can be very con­ta­gious to young peo­ple,” she said.

So­cial me­dia users, who de­lib­er­ately push oth­ers to take their own lives, baf­fle many ex­perts and pose a chal­lenge to gov­ern­ments around the world.

“This is big­otry, but they still do it (in­flu­ence oth­ers to com­mit sui­cide),” said psy­chi­a­try ex­pert Pro­fes­sor Dr T. Ma­niam of Univer­siti Ke­bangsaan Malaysia.

He said the per­ils of so­cial me­dia ne­ces­si­tated that every na­tion, in­clud­ing Malaysia, must come up with a mech­a­nism to help peo­ple, es­pe­cially ado­les­cents, be­come more emo­tion­ally re­silient.

This is be­cause a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of ado­les­cents in the coun­try view sui­cide as an op­tion to solv­ing their prob­lems as they are un­able to han­dle re­jec­tion.

“This is be­cause some of them per­ceive that life is like the In­ter­net, and that they can get ev­ery­thing they wish with a click of a but­ton,” said Malaysian Psy­chi­atric As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Pro­fes­sor Dr Nor Zu­raida Zainal.

Although the num­ber of sui­cide cases in Malaysia and Sarawak are rel­a­tively low, it is im­per­a­tive for all par­ties to ad­dress the mat­ter. Sui­cide cases not only in­flict emo­tional pain on fam­ily mem­bers and friends, but also re­sult in eco­nomic loss for the coun­try.

The Sarawak gov­ern­ment should be ap­plauded for its im­me­di­ate re­sponse to the call by WHO men­tal health and sub­stance abuse direc­tor Shekhar Sax­ena to in­ten­sify ef­forts to re­duce sui­cide cases.

Chief Min­is­ter Datuk Amar Abang Jo­hari Abang Openg had an­nounced an in­crease of five per cent in al­lo­ca­tion for the State Wel­fare, Com­mu­nity Well­be­ing, Women, Fam­ily and Child­hood De­vel­op­ment Min­istry to carry out aware­ness cam­paigns on sui­cide preven­tion.

“I urge aca­demi­cians and pro­fes­sion­als to con­duct more re­search on sui­ci­dal be­hav­iour in Sarawak to give us a clearer pic­ture of the prob­lem,” he said.

Although the num­ber of sui­cide cases in Malaysia and Sarawak are rel­a­tively low, it is im­per­a­tive for all par­ties to ad­dress the mat­ter. Sui­cide cases not only in­flict emo­tional pain on fam­ily mem­bers and friends, but also re­sult in eco­nomic loss for the coun­try.

NYT PIC

The late Ch­ester Ben­ning­ton of rock band Linkin Park per­form­ing in New York in 2011. Ac­cord­ing to World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion statis­tics, al­most 800,000 peo­ple die from sui­cide an­nu­ally, which is equiv­a­lent to one death every 40 sec­onds.

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