Repurposed by Brenan Yeo

Michael used to contemplate suicidal thoughts in secondary school. It hurt him that his classmates said his cries for help were just for attention.
Michael Lim, 22, once entertained suicidal thoughts when he was in secondary school.

When 14-year-old
Elaine (not her real name) was rushed from school to the hospital, she had a deep
cut on her arm and 39 other infected wounds – all self-inflicted – on other
parts of her body.

Earlier in
the day, she had made a cut too deep on her arm with a stained blade in the
toilet. She tried to stop the bleeding with tissue papers but a teacher saw her
injury and called the ambulance.

The doctors stitched
up her fresh wound, tended to her old wounds and observed her for any hidden
emotional wounds for the next 5 days. She was then diagnosed with depression and prescribed mandatory therapy sessions.   

Far from feeling relieved that she’s receiving
professional help, Elaine, who’s now 19, recalled feeling even more dejected
then. “I just thought to myself
every day: You can’t do anything right. You can’t even kill yourself.”

Elaine
started hurting herself after her parents’ divorce. “I hated going home because my mum was
emotionally abusive towards my sister and me after her divorce.

“Home was always very noisy.
I felt like I didn’t have a real family.”

To her, self-mutilation is
a form of relief. “I became addicted. I cut my arms, thighs and
stomach. Pretty soon I didn’t have space so I just went over fresh wounds.

“I also started hurting myself in school whenever I
felt upset or stressed…I wore many hairbands and a big watch to cover the scars.”

Her scars are still visible now and do attract curious
stares from strangers. But she’s certainly in a much better place now after
going through regular therapies.

Elaine is not the only one who has attempted self-harm
and entertained suicidal thoughts in her early teens.

According to the Ministry of Social and Family Development, the number of hospital admissions
for self-inflicted injuries among those aged 14 years and below was 42 in 2015, 37 in 2016 and 30
in 2017.

In 2015, suicide accounted
for 27 deaths among teenagers between 10 and 19 years old. The number has
dropped to 22 in 2016, and 12 in 2017. While the numbers are not alarmingly
high, the phenomenon remains disturbing.

Suicides in Singapore over the years, distributed by age group.

Mr Michael Lim (not his real name), 22, was similarly consumed by suicidal
thoughts
when he was 15.
He started skipping classes and his grades suffered. What hurt him the most was
when his friends said his suicidal claims were mere cries for attention.

But he recalled: “I made
foolproof plans and went through them over and over again.

I constantly went to the
highest floor of any building, just stared at the ground and imagined myself
falling.”

Fortunately, Michael found
strength in his religion and did not end his life. But he feels we can be
kinder – as a community – towards people who are coping with suicidal thoughts
and other emotional pains.  

Ms Lexie Tan, a freelance psychologist
and counsellor, said
the public would benefit from more psychological first aid training, so that
they know where to seek help should they and their loved ones need it.

In February
2019, the Singapore government said it’s set to decriminalize attempted suicide
to help re-integrate survivors back into society.

Ms Tan said
this move will definitely help suicide survivors. “When they’re in the recovery
stage, it does not help in their recovery that they are being treated like
criminals.”

If you are contemplating suicide, seek help and talk to someone you can trust. If you know of someone contemplating suicide, lend a listening ear instead of advising them.

Be patient. Be kind.