Written Replies to Parliamentary Questions

Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on Arrests Made for Attempted Suicides by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 10 October 2016



Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) how many arrests have been made last year for attempted suicides; (b) whether police officers making these arrests are trained to follow any specific protocol or approach which differs from arrests for other offences; and (c) whether the Ministry will consider having police suicide prevention practices that do not involve arrests.




1. It has been a criminal offence to attempt suicide. It was thought to be important that society should oppose people taking their own lives. In practice, prosecutions are rare.


2. Police officers try to respond to cases of attempted suicide with sensitivity and compassion. Persons who attempt suicide are emotionally and psychologically distressed. When responding to such cases, Police's priority is to ensure the person's safety. Police officers try to look out for signs of suicidal tendencies, and take this into consideration in their response.


3. As regards arrests, Police arrest persons for cases of attempted suicide usually to prevent them from doing harm, either to themselves or to others. When it is assessed that there is no such risk, they may not be arrested. It is on this basis that 837 persons were taken into custody for attempting suicide, out of 1096 cases of attempted suicide reported in 2015. However, only two of them were eventually prosecuted.


4. For all cases of attempted suicide, Police will recommend the appropriate follow-up. Police may refer the person to the Samaritans of Singapore for counselling, or engage the next-of-kin to assist in supporting and caring for the person. If there are clear signs indicating possible mental instability, Police may refer the person to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for an assessment of the person's mental state. If deemed necessary by medical professionals, the person may subsequently be warded at IMH for care and treatment. 


Law and order