Young females committing suicide at alarming rate

4 April 2004

Young females are increasingly taking their lives in Singapore, pushing their suicide rate to one of the highest in the world, a psychiatrists study revealed on Sunday.

Love problems, family friction, bereavement, school stress, work issues, financial pressures and mental illness tip many women over the edge, said Dr. Chia Boon Hock.

His figures, published in The Sunday Times, showed 3.2 per 100,000 females aged 10 to 19 killed themselves in 1991.

Ten years later, the rate soared to 5.1, an increase of about 40 per cent.

The proportion of males in the same age group taking their own lives is stabilising at around four suicides per 100,000 people a year, Chia found.

The elderly rate has also dropped from 100 suicides per 100,000 people in 1960 to 30.

Despondent young women appear to be making up the shortfall Chia was quoted as saying.

Malay female suicide rates are growing from a very low base as more join the workforce and face breakneck pressures, Chia said. Their rate ofsuicide was 0.5 per 100,000 people a year in 1969, but went up to 3.7 by 1999.

Chia said he started tracking suicidal female teenagers here when an international study in the 1990s ranked the suicide rate of females aged 15 to 24 the fourth highest in the world.

The top three were China, Lithuania and Kazakhstan. In most countries, men are more likely to succeed in killing themselves, while women attempt it more often, but less successfully.

The odds of dying are even for both sexes here because Singaporeans usually choose the lethal method of jumping to their deaths from high-rise buildings.

Chias statistics show 70 per cent of those who committed suicide between 2000 and 2002 leapt to their deaths, usually from a corridor, kitchen or bedroom. The rest hang, gas, poison, burn or drown themselves.

Between 300 and 400 people take their own lives here each year.

Indonesian maids are another group of young women ending their lives at an alarming rate. At least 30 have committed suicide in the last three years
and left letters to their families describing their employers cruelty, Chia told the newspaper.

Like lost souls, they find it difficult to adapt to this strange new
land, he was quoted as saying.

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