Written Replies to Parliamentary Questions

Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on Emergency Services Relating to Suicide and Mental Health Conditions, by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 03 March 2020


Ms Anthea Ong: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) in the last three years, how many (i) emergency calls and (ii) 999 calls were received by the SCDF and Police respectively that are related to suicides and mental health conditions; (b) how many of these calls were false alarms; (c) what is the average and total number of hours spent by these frontline officers supporting people with mental health difficulties; (d) how are frontline officers trained to conduct psychological or other appropriate interventions; (e) how many persons attempting suicide were (i) able to receive timely support from emergency services and (ii) not able to receive such support and died by suicide before emergency services could reach them; and (f) why it is not feasible to adopt a specialised mental health ambulance or emergency response team.



    1. From 2017 to 2019, Police received an average of 1,204 reports of attempted suicide each year.


    2. We do not have statistics on the number of false alarms, the number of persons who were found dead from suicide by the time emergency services arrived, nor the total number of hours spent by our officers to engage persons with mental health issues.


    3. When the Police receive a report of attempted suicide, the nearest available resource will be dispatched to respond quickly to the case. If medical intervention is needed, the SCDF will also send the nearest available ambulance to the scene. If you want specialised “mental health ambulances” then you will have to have these in sufficient numbers to respond immediately to cases at any part of the island. That would not be a sensible approach. The right approach is to quickly get to such persons, with the use of normal ambulances, and make sure they get care. They can receive specialised mental healthcare thereafter.


    4. All Police officers receive training on how to manage cases involving individuals who are mentally distressed or traumatised. They also undergo regular refreshers through after-action reviews of such incidents.


    5. Where necessary, the frontline officers will activate additional resources to assist with the case such as SCDF’sDisaster Assistance and Rescue Teams (DART) and the Police’s Crisis Negotiation Unit (CNU). DART is specially trained for complex rescue operations, including cases of attempted suicide at height and in confined spaces. CNU has Police officers and psychologists who are trained in suicide intervention. This includes how to negotiate with the person attempting suicide to dissuade them from doing so.


Civil Defence and Emergency Preparedness