Suicide is the leading cause of death among Singapore youths and has been on the rise in recent years. According to Samaritans Of Singapore (SOS), youths aged 10 to 29 years old made up nearly one-quarter of the 452 suicides reported in 2020. This marked a seven per cent increase from the previous year.
Suicide is not inevitable. Sharing about one’s suicidal ideation, if done in a safe manner and with people equipped to have these conversations, can provide relief and an outlet. The internet remains one of the few places of socialisation and escape for many youths (National Youth Council, 2018) and SOS has observed more young people expressing suicidal thoughts online.
Finding communities with a similar experience and receiving support can be empowering, and provide hope of recovery to those contemplating suicide, SOS explained. But what if someone you care about shares his or her suicidal thoughts with you? How can you show support? What should (or shouldn’t) you say?
To guide such conversations, which can be very difficult and confronting, SOS launched the #PauseBeforeYouPost campaign in 2021 to educate youths and parents on how to have safe and helpful conversations about suicide.
Chatting online about suicide can be dangerous. Posting, re-posting, sharing celebrity stories, even trying to help can do more harm than good if you don’t know how to chat safely. To find how you can #chatsafe about suicide, visit sos.org.sg/chatsafe #PauseBeforeYouPost
Posted by Samaritans of Singapore on Monday, 17 May 2021
With support from Temasek Foundation, SOS has also developed a localised #chatsafe training curriculum adapted from Australia-based #chatsafe guidelines, to help Singapore youths manage their own mental health as well as support those around them who are at risk of suicide.
Communities with a similar experience and receiving support can be empowering, and provide hope of recovery to those contemplating suicide.
Below are some tips on how to #chatsafe:
How to have constructive online conversations about suicide
1. Prioritise self-care
First, take care of your well-being. If you are feeling upset or overwhelmed by content you see online, know that you are not obliged to engage. Try physically stepping away for a while, or log off, or do something different. Hide triggering posts on your feed or unfollow content that may cause you distress. You could also seek support from a family member, friend or mental health professional.
2. Before you post, pause
Think carefully before you share or comment on Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms. Ask yourself:
- What is your intention of sharing or commenting on a post?
- How would the post affect yourself or other people?
- Is there a different way of sharing the content that would be safer and more helpful?
Online content can go viral and exist on the World Wide Web for a long time. If the post is inaccurate, stigmatising or triggering, it can reinforce suicidal and self-harm behaviours.
3. Be mindful of language
Words can sometimes unintentionally glamourise, romanticise, or make suicide seem appealing. Judgmental phrases can also reinforce myths, stigmas and stereotypes and shut down communication. If someone approaches you with suicidal thoughts, here are some things to avoid saying (and what to say instead):
|Instead of saying:||Say this:|
The term ‘commit’ denotes criminality and sin
|‘Died by suicide’|
Do not describe suicide as a desirable outcome.
|Saying that a person had resorted to suicide as a ‘solution’ to his/her problems, life stressors or mental health difficulties.
This trivialises suicide.
|Say that suicide is complex and many factors contribute to a person ending their life.|
‘Suicide is for cowards.’
Avoid using judgmental phrases that reinforce myths, stigmas and stereotypes, or suggest nothing can be done about suicide.
|‘Suicide is preventable.’
‘Help is available.’
‘Treatment can be successful.’
‘Recovery is possible.’
Encourage the person to talk to a mental health professional as soon as possible.
4. Promote hope and recovery
If sharing your own story online, emphasise parts of your experience that demonstrate the importance of seeking help early, and give messages that reduce stigma and promote hope and recovery. Consider providing a content or trigger warning to warn readers about potentially disturbing forthcoming content.
5. When responding to someone, listen
When reaching out to someone who may be at risk of suicide, contact them privately, acknowledge their feelings and tell them why you are worried about them. It will be good to also research on available resources that you can share with them. Know that it is okay to ask directly if they are thinking about suicide. Sit with them, listen attentively, and let the person know that you care.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, it is important to know that no one is alone. It is normal to feel uncomfortable or not be ready to talk about suicide at times. Talking about suicide can feel difficult. When you are ready to share your feelings, you can talk to a trusted person or professional for support.
Suicide prevention is everyone’s business. You can play a part too. For more information and advice on how to #chatsafe, visit www.sos.org.sg/chatsafe.
Know someone who may be facing a crisis or going through a tough time? Learn what you can do to help someone in crisis, or find out more about SOS services. You may also support SOS by donating (click here).
Here are other helplines you can reach out to, if faced with a crisis:
- SOS (24-hour Hotline) – Tel: 1-767
- Institute of Mental Health – Tel: 6389 2222
- Singapore Association of Mental Health – Tel: 1800 283 7019
This article is contributed by Samaritans of Singapore (SOS).
National Youth Council (2018). Youth SG: The State of Youth in Singapore – Research Compilation. https://www.nyc.gov.sg/-/media/mccy/projects/nyc/files/innitiatives/resource/national-youth-council-research-compilation-2018.ashx?&la=en&hash=B80F8F26A53F226144F87DD24EA0DA061CE8E7F1