Can't compare suicide figures before & after it was decriminalised in S'pore: Desmond Tan

Attempted suicide was decriminalised in Singapore in 2019.

Joshua Lee | November 05, 2020, 10:04 AM

The reported number of suicide attempts and suicide ideation before suicide was decriminalised in Singapore is not comparable to the number after decriminalisation, said Minister of State in the Ministry for Home Affairs Desmond Tan.

In Parliament on Nov. 4, Tan responded to Member of Parliament Murali Pillai who asked for the number of suicide cases recorded after the decriminalisation of suicide in 2019, as well as the number of suicide cases where the Police and SCDF intervened to help.

Murali also asked how decriminalising suicide has improved the situation for those who are tempted to commit suicide.

Suicide was decriminalised as part of the Criminal Law Reform Act 2019 and the amendments came into effect on January 1, 2020.

Here are the figures that Tan gave:

There were 400 cases of death by suicide in 2019.

Out of these 400 cases, 304 were reported in the 9-month period from January to September 2019.

The preliminary figure for death by suicide for the corresponding 9-month period this year (January to September 2020) is 166.

Tan stressed that this is a preliminary figure; it may change depending on the outcomes from proceedings such as the Coroner's Inquiry which determine the circumstances that lead to death.

From January to September this year, the Police were called to assist in about 1,800 cases involving persons with suicidal ideation or persons who may have attempted suicide.

Before suicide was decriminalised, the Police received around 1,200 reports of attempted suicide per year from 2017 to 2019.

Suicide figures before and after decriminalisation not comparable

Both these figures are not comparable. Before attempted suicide was decriminalised, it was defined as having both the intent and actually carrying out the act of taking one's own life.

The post-decriminalisation figure covers individuals with suicide ideation in addition to those who carry out the act of taking their own lives.

"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," said Tan, adding that the government will continue to monitor and adjust its approach to helping people who are suicidal.


If you or someone you know needs help, here are some helplines which provide a listening ear and advice:

SOS 24-hour Hotline: 1800-221-4444

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

Institute of Mental Health: 6389-2222 (24 hours)

Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (for primary school-aged children)

Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

We deliver more stories to you on LinkedInMothership Linkedin

Top image via Healthline.