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Suicide: A little empathy goes a long way

10/09/2021 08:23 PM

By Siti Shafiah Ariffin & Nur Hamizah Zaini

(This article is released in conjunction with the World Suicide Prevention Day which falls of Sept 10)   

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 10 -- Azura (not her real name) remembered the dark period preceding her attempt to kill herself three years ago.

“I was anxious, sad and crying all the time. I had no appetite and was constantly in denial, questioning and blaming myself for everything. Why me, I kept thinking. I couldn’t process how ending my life would’ve affected my parents, let alone what that meant for me.”

She was, however, one of the lucky ones. She was saved and is currently undergoing treatment.

Back then, even those close to her had difficulty understanding and accepting what she was going through.

“At one point, my roommate told me – “That’s it. I’ve given up caring about you. Your problems are making it difficult for me to focus on my studies”. Some people have also gone up to my mother and advised her to take me to the hospital because I might be “crazy” because I often talked aloud to myself,” she told Bernama in an interview.

Having tried many different methods to heal herself, Azura said the road to recovery was a long one. She wished the public would be more understanding towards those who have attempted suicide and advocate for their recovery.



There is undoubtedly a need for better empathy and education surrounding the issue. Such awareness will help them become more sensitive to the warning signs should family members, friends or colleagues start exhibiting telltale behaviour.

Society is also often lost in the fog of the stigma surrounding suicide that they need reminding that what those inclined to commit suicide or attempt survivors are in need of is support, particularly emotional support.

Over 703,000 people commit suicide every year. That’s one suicide committed every 40 seconds.

Suicides are also one of the top 10 causes of death globally and the fourth highest cause of death for those aged between 15 and 29 years old.

In 2019, one in every 100 deaths (1.3 percent) is by suicide.

And for every one of those deaths, it is estimated that 135 family members and friends will suffer the impact whether emotionally or socio-economically.

The COVID-19 pandemic which crippled the world’s economy and health systems have also undoubtedly exacerbated the situation.

Malaysian police recorded 638 suicide cases from Jan to July this year, compared to 262 cases for the corresponding period last year. This is a staggering 143 percent increase in cases. It has even surpassed the total number of suicide cases reported last year, which is 631.

On average, two suicide cases were reported every day in Malaysia between 2019 to May 2021, with the main reasons being emotional stress, financial problems and family issues. 

Clinical psychologist and director of WeCare Allied Health, Shazeema Mashood Shah.


Clinical psychologist and director of WeCare Allied Health, Shazeema Mashood Shah said those who commit suicide were usually unable to see another way out of their troubles.

“Perhaps they were burdened by mental health issues or were facing serious problems with no viable solution. So they decide the only way out is to end their life,” she said.

Shazeema said there were several early symptoms to look out for when loved ones start displaying atypical behaviour.

“We might notice a change in their routines. Maybe they’d have trouble sleeping, or would be sleeping all the time. They could have poor appetite or change from being a chatty person to one who is distant and quiet.

“They might seem constantly down or sad, or simply off. It could also be that they have a history of mental issues or an event that triggered their potential to commit suicide,” she explained.

Allow them to talk about their lives and simply listen, she advised.

“We may not know how to appropriate respond or sometimes, we may cut them off while they are telling their story. This may deter them from telling us what’s wrong. It is better to just lend an ear or be a shoulder to cry on,” she said.

If their situation does not improve, assist them in getting professional help and connect them with services that can help with their situation.


Shazeema said there were many available forms of help provided by the authorities to those who find themselves in a bind. Aside from availing hotlines to help those affected, there are also avenues providing shelter and financial aid.

The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development has also introduced the National Counselling Policy to address mental health issues within the society - an important move towards tackling factors that could contribute to suicide cases.

Shazeema advised those who felt like suicide was the only way out to see a doctor and get the help they need.

“Everyone has problems, and everyone needs help. In countries like the US, it’s absolutely normal and not unusual to get help for these issues. We just need to open up our minds to accept that this is okay,” she said, adding that public awareness on mental health issues have been a lot better in recent years, thanks to social media.

For Azura, what aided in her recovery was sharing more with her parents and family, as well as engaging in activities that inspire positivity.

“Make the conscious decision to move on. Seek medical help – doctors don’t judge us for it. The therapy helps, but we need to help ourselves first.

“Don’t place too much hope in man. It’s better to work on your relationship with God. As for society, I hope they won’t isolate attempt survivors. Lending an ear is good enough. Don’t criticise them, just pray that they get through it fine,” she advised.

Suicide is preventable. We just need to pay attention and be kinder to those in need.



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