GEORGE TOWN: Unreported suicide attempts along the two Penang Bridges are on the rise with the total number easily eclipsing the official statistics.
Criminologist and Universiti Sains Malaysia security director Assoc Prof Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy said some of these cases went unreported because they are considered a crime.
“It is also a negative social stigma and the embarrassment affecting these victims and their families.
“If a report is made, the victim has to go through psychiatric evaluation,” he said yesterday.
Penang police chief Comm Datuk T. Narenasagaran said attempted suicide cases are classified as criminal offences under Section 309 of Penal Code.
According to police statistics, three suicide attempts were recorded from January to June this year on the Penang Bridge, as compared to just one each for the whole of 2017 and last year.
As for the second Penang Bridge, there was one case recorded so far this year, as compared to two cases last year.
Until June this year, the statistics also showed that one person had committed suicide on the Penang Bridge, as compared to three each in 2017 and last year.
On the second Penang Bridge, there were two suicide cases reported so far this year, as compared to two in 2017 and three last year.
In short, there were already three suicides cases on the two bridges for the first six months of this year, as compared to a total of five in 2017 and six in 2018.
Tow truck service runner Tan Chin Leong, 44, who is tasked to help remove the vehicles left by accidents or suicide victims, along the North-South Expressway and the Penang Bridge, claimed that this year alone, there had been 11 attempted suicide cases on the Penang Bridge that were not reported.
“Most cases are not reported because the victims were rescued by fishermen, or prevented from jumping by rescuers,” he said.
The latest suicide attempt along the Penang Bridge was in February when a 22-year-old woman was rescued by fishermen after she fell into the sea.
There was also another incident where a man, clad in a suit and went live on social media to record his suicide attempt.
He was, however, rescued by the marine police.
Even one suicide is considered one too many, said Prof Sundramoorthy.
“Suicide and attempted suicide actually can be prevented with the right type of intervention.
“Some of these victims will try to reach out for help but others do not show any symptoms or signs at all.
“Those who reach out for help from professionals or their families and friends are usually pointing out their problems and showing signs of their suicidal thoughts.
“It is easier to intervene and assist them more effectively.
“But those who do not show any signs, it is harder to reach out to them,” he said.
Prof Sundramoorthy added that several social factors such as the level of bonding and attachment of people towards their circle of friends could lead to the intention to commit suicide.
“When the level of attachment and bonding is weak among family and friends, a person will feel alienated and rejected, hence suicidal thoughts will prevail.
“The victims will feel that they are not fulfilling the expectations of others,” he said.
Prof Sundramoorthy also said social factors such as socioeconomic status, unemployment, financial matters, marital problems and issues at work place, played a vital role in this matter.
“Excessive controlling by family members on the dos and don’ts can also create suicidal thoughts in a person,” he said.
Prof Sundramoorthy said when a person is unable to manage stress and does not reach out for help, he or she would be easily affected, both mentally and emotionally.
“Counselling services should be made accessible at schools, colleges, workplaces, clinics and hospitals.
“Information should also be shared through social media on how to seek appointment with counsellors,” he said.
A psychologist in Penang, who wanted to be known only as Dr Chooi, said mental health issues are serious and have put a dent to the country’s aspiration to become a developed nation.
“The public should be educated about various issues surrounding mental health.
“Not talking about the problem will not solve it,” she said.
Dr Chooi added that some people might opt to take a shortcut as a solution, which could be detrimental to themselves and the people around them.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre Psychiatry Department Associate Prof and consultant psychiatrist Dr Chan Lai Fong said mental health services are available at most hospitals in the country.
“Those who need a listening ear for emotional support can also reach out to non-governmental organisations that offer various helplines including Sneham Malaysia, which is the first Tamil language based hotline for suicide prevention.
“They operate from 4pm to 8pm daily at 1800-22-5757.
“It is also available in Malay and English.
“For Mandarin speakers, if you need an ear, just call the Life Line Association Malaysia’s hotline at 03-4265 7995,” she said.
Those in trouble or in need of someone to talk to, they can call the Befrienders KL at 03-7956 8145, 04-281 5161/ 1108 in Penang, 05-547 7933/ 7955 in Ipoh or email [email protected]
This article first appeared on The Star.