Rising suicide numbers among young people a concern: Wong, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Rising suicide numbers among young people a concern: Wong

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Close to 800,000 people around the world die due to suicide every year, and the numbers are rising, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

What is worrying, though, is the rising suicide numbers among young people, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said.

Noting that social media has been attributed as a cause, he cited a US study that found teenagers who spend more time on electronic devices and social media are more likely to be at risk of depression and suicide.

Mr Wong was speaking at the 50th anniversary conference of suicide prevention agency The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) yesterday.

While there are no similar local studies linking social media use with suicide, Mr Wong, a patron of SOS, said Singapore is not "immune" to global suicide trends and that social media shapes a person's self-worth.

Mr Wong said on the link between social media and suicide: "Perhaps it is due to cyber bullying on social media platforms, perhaps it is because social media plays a part in shaping their sense of self-worth, and it drives a certain fear of missing out.

"There is even an acronym for it, Fomo, and the fear of being left out, it amplifies negative emotions of insecurity and inferiority. And in the absence of an adequate support system, the dangers that depression or suicidal thoughts go unchecked increase."

According to the World Health Organisation, suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 29 globally.

SOS said that suicide remains the leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 29. Last year, 94 young people here chose to end their lives.

The number of teenage boys taking their own lives reached a record high here last year. Nineteen boys aged 10 to 19 committed suicide last year, the highest since suicide figures began being recorded in 1991.

Facebook Asia-Pacific's safety policy manager Snow White Smelser, who spoke at the conference, emphasised the importance of social media platforms in highlighting potential suicidal or harmful behaviour for possible intervention.

She said that Facebook and Instagram frequently update their policies to prevent harmful or suicidal content from being propagated.