Oral Replies to Parliamentary Questions

Oral Reply to Parliamentary Question on Cases of Suicide Since its Decriminalisation, by Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment

Published: 04 November 2020



Mr Murali Pillai: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs since the decriminalisation of suicide in 2019 (a) how many cases of suicide have been recorded; (b) in how many cases of attempted suicide have the police and SCDF intervened to help such persons as part of the safeguards put in place upon the abolishment of the criminal offence of attempting suicide; and (c) how has the decriminalisation of attempted suicide improved the situation for persons tempted to commit suicide.




1. In 2019, there were 400 cases of death by suicide. From January to September 2019 there were 304 deaths by suicide.


2. Preliminarily, from January to September 2020, there were 166 cases of death by suicide. I have to qualify that these are preliminary figures. They may change depending on outcomes from proceedings such as Coroner’s Inquiries to determine the circumstances leading to death.


3. Attempted suicide was decriminalised via the Criminal Law Reform Act 2019. The amendments came into effect on 1 January 2020. From January to September 2020, Police were called to assist in about 1,800 cases involving persons with suicidal ideation or persons who may have attempted suicide.


4. Before attempted suicide was decriminalised, from 2017 to 2019, Police received about 1,200 reports of attempted suicide per year. For these cases of attempted suicide, the physical and fault elements of the offence under section 309 of the Penal Code must be made out. That means they have to demonstrate intent as well as have the act of carrying out to take his own life. This figure is not comparable with the post-decriminalisation figure which covers cases where individuals have suicidal ideation, in addition to persons who have taken the further step of attempted suicide.


5. The criminal justice system is not the best way to deal with persons who attempted suicide. Such persons are often under severe distress. The decriminalisation of attempted suicide reduces stigma and encourages persons who are suicidal to seek help early. The reasons for suicide are multifaceted and complex. Hence, the Government has been continuing our efforts to prevent suicides.


6. We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our approaches to better assist suicidal persons.


Law and order
Civil Defence and Emergency Preparedness