World Suicide Prevention Day: 2 initiatives to spot and help youths in distress

·4-min read
"Ah Boys to Men 4" actor Ryan Lian (left) receives his certificate of completion for QPR Gatekeeping from Minister of State Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim. (PHOTO: CLA)
"Ah Boys to Men 4" actor Ryan Lian (left) receives his certificate of completion for QPR Gatekeeping from Minister of State Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim. (PHOTO: CLA)

SINGAPORE — The Gatekeeping Lives Movement, a new initiative which seeks to train youths to spot signs of stress, anxiety and suicidal tendencies among their peers, was launched on Saturday (10 September).

The first batch of 50 youths from the 10 ASEAN countries received their certificates and appointments as "gatekeepers" during a ceremony at Orchard Central's 10 Square Auditorium, which was graced by Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.

These youths, aged between 16 and 25, were trained under the QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), which is the most widely-taught gatekeeper programme in the world, and equips the youths with skills to recognise early warning signs and address worrying behaviours among their peers facing mental health issues.

One of those who completed the QPR programme is Nguyen Thao Nhi, a Vietnamese national who has been living in Singapore for 10 years. The 24-year-old believes the training has helped her feel ready to support and help her friends in conversations related to mental health.

“The skill to read red flags, catch signs, and make the other person comfortable is something that we should and need to learn, so that we can watch out for our loved ones," she said.

"QPR taught me that a simple but daring action of asking the right questions can potentially save someone’s life."

Panel discussion on mental health awareness

The launch of the initiative also saw a panel discussion on mental health awareness and curbing youth suicide rates.

One of the panellists is actor-singer Ryan Lian, best known for his role as Corporal "Ah Long" in Jack Neo's "Ah Boys To Men 4". The 37-year-old had also completed the QPR programme.

Lian shared candidly that, after years of difficulties and challenges in his early life, he attempted suicide when he was 30. He did not succeed, and had a change of heart as he realised that death is not the answer to his problems.

When one of his friends revealed suicidal thoughts to Lian, he realised that he could use his personal experience to help those in similar trouble. This led to him becoming a gatekeeper in the initiative.

Youth leaders from 10 ASEAN countries launch The Gatekeeping Lives Movement for ASEAN Youth Community 2022. (PHOTO: CLA)
Youth leaders from 10 ASEAN countries launch The Gatekeeping Lives Movement for ASEAN Youth Community 2022. (PHOTO: CLA)

According to reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide rates among people aged 15 to 44 have increased to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of all countries.

A survey of over 300 ASEAN youth across 10 countries by Character and Leadership Academy (CLA) - which mooted the Gatekeeping Lives Movement initiative - showed that almost one in seven youths know of a friend in danger of ending their life due to stress and personal problems.

In conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day on Saturday, CLA executive director Delane Lim hopes to continue working with foreign embassies and youth organisations in partnering countries to strengthen and grow The Gatekeeping Lives Movement to non-ASEAN countries like South Africa and Japan.

"The youths from our neighbouring countries often do not have many friends here to turn to. Even if they have, the friends may not know the right things to say or do. Hence, it is important that youth are trained to help when their peers are in trouble,” he said.

SOS launches CareText service for individuals in distress

Meanwhile, the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) has officially launched CareText, its second 24-hour service for individuals in distress, on Saturday.

The WhatsApp text-messaging service is manned by SOS’ trained volunteers and staff, provides round-the-clock support to those in need, serving as another resource to their 24-hour Hotline and CareMail.

First piloted in July 2020 on limited hours, CareText then widened its coverage on a beta trial for the last eight months. Last month, SOS answered almost 1,800 chats, close to triple the number of chats received in August 2021.

Based on the clients that CareText served, SOS observed an increase in chats from youths in distress, with 82 per cent of clients aged 29 and below. More youths however, are also stepping up to play a part to support their peers, with 80 per cent of SOS’ trained CareText volunteers also aged 29 and below.

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