In a worrying trend, suicides among the elderly in Singapore rose to an all-time high in 2017, even though the overall number of suicides fell to its lowest in five years.
Releasing the figures, non-profit suicide prevention centre Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) showed that the number of elderly people aged 60 and above who committed suicide in 2017 shot up to 129; an increase from the 123 cases in 2016.
The total number of suicides dropped to 361 in 2017 from 429 the year before. The figure for 2017 was the lowest since 2012, when the number of suicides reached an all-time high of 467.
“The high prevalence of suicide mortality among the elderly is a worrying trend in Singapore. 2011 saw 361 suicide deaths recorded in Singapore as well. However, elderly suicides in 2017 was an alarming 123 per cent of that in 2011,” said SOS in a press release issued today.
Concern has been expressed over the new record of elderly people of Singapore taking recourse to suicides. Counsellors cited loneliness, lack of awareness on help resources as well as the inability of workers providing eldercare services to detect emotional distress as key reasons why the number of such cases is growing.
There has also been a drop witnessed in seniors making calls to the SOS’s 24-hour hotline service. 23 per cent of incoming calls were made by callers aged 60 and above in 2017. However, calls made by the elderly dropped by 18 per cent from 6,904 calls in 2016 to 5,652 calls in 2017.
The common issues highlighted by these callers include the fear of becoming a burden to family and friends as well as their difficulties coping with their worsening physical or mental health.
Expressing her concern, Christine Wong, Executive Director of SOS, said, “It is very worrying that many elderly are turning to suicide as the only choice to end their pain and struggles, when they should be enjoying their lustre of the golden years.”
“The ageing population in Singapore is set to bring more challenges to current available social support services. There is imminent need for stronger support networks as the number of elderly Singapore residents living alone continues to increase,” she added.
Stressing for educating caregivers about ensuring mental wellness for seniors, Wong said, “Apart from reaching out to the elderly community, we have to continue educating the loved ones and caregivers about the importance of mental wellness in the elderly in a more effective manner to increase awareness and detection, and help erode some of the stigmas they hold."