Published: 09 January 2017
Mr Leon Perera: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what is the evidence available to the Government that suggests that section 309 of the Penal Code deters attempted suicides; and (b) what efforts will the Government be undertaking to ensure that this law does not deter those who entertain suicidal thoughts from seeking help.
1. I had addressed the issue of attempted suicide in an earlier reply. It has been a criminal offence to attempt suicide, because it was thought to be important that society should make it clear that people should not take their own lives. Based on the World Health Organisation's statistics, Singapore's suicide rate is lower than a number of other developed countries.
2. In practice, prosecutions are rare, and Police officers are trained to respond to cases of attempted suicide with sensitivity and compassion. When responding to such cases, Police's priority is to ensure the person's safety.
3. The Ministry of Health has also shared in an earlier reply how Singapore adopts a multi-pronged approach to prevent suicide. Government agencies and social sector organisations work together to try and prevent suicides through upstream prevention, encouraging people to seek help, providing support to at-risk groups and offering crisis support.
4. This multi-pronged approach includes programmes to reduce the stigma in seeking help for suicidal thoughts. Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) such as the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), have been actively promoting public awareness on suicide prevention. They have rendered advice and help to persons with suicidal thoughts who call their hotlines. Silver Ribbon (Singapore) also addresses the stigma associated with mental illness, reaches out to those who need help, and encourages them to seek early treatment. The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) also conducts public education programmes in schools and in the community, to increase understanding of mental health conditions.