Even as suicide rates in Malaysia remain murky, mental health practitioners are calling for more urgent action to prevent suicides. Following the suicide of a teenager in Sarawak over an Instagram post, experts are saying that discussions must be held to find ways to address suicidal posts on social media.
Malaysia Mental Health Association president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj (pic) said an alert system must be set up on social media sites to detect posts indicating suicidal tendencies. Social media, he said, can sometimes lead users to focus on self-image. “This constant anxiety of wanting to be validated means living in an environment of low self-confidence and feelings of worthlessness.“This in turn leads to self-harm and suicide attempts,” he added.
However, he also acknowledged the formidable force social media can be of help to teenagers with mental health issues when used correctly. “The best way forward is to set healthy boundaries on the use of social media that encourage empathy and understanding,” Dr Andrew said.
The National Suicide Registry reported in 2009 that there were 1.18 suicides per hundred thousand in the population, but he disputed this figure. “Most cases are not reported as suicide; the cause of death is often not appropriately documented,” he said. He added that a 2008 study by the World Health Organization suggested that the actual rate in Malaysia was as high as 13 per hundred thousand.
Befrienders KL executive director Kenny Lim said they received some 30,000 calls on their helpline in 2018 – an increase of 11% from the year before. Befrienders is a not-for-profit organisation which provides emotional support at any time to people who are lonely, distressed, in despair or having suicidal thoughts.