BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – In light of the increasing rate of suicides, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has announced that it is developing a national hotline for suicide prevention.

During a joint press conference on Saturday, statistics provided by the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) revealed that a total of 46 suicide have been recorded since 2014, involving 15 locals and 31 foreigners.

During the same period, there were 43 attempted suicides, involving 28 locals and 15 foreigners.

Between 2016 and 2017 alone, the number of suicides increased by 62 percent, said Pg Hj Abdul Salam Pg Hj And Ghani, acting commanding officer of Brunei Muara police district.

A total of six suicides were recorded in 2014; eight in 2015; eight in 2016; 13 in in 2017; and 11 from January to August of 2018.

Pg Hj Abdul Salam Pg Hj And Ghani, acting commanding officer of Brunei Muara police district. Photo: Wardi Wasil/The Scoop

‘A serious public health issue’

Dr Hilda Ho, head of Psychiatry Services at MoH, stressed that suicide is a serious public health problem, an issue that is complex and involving many factors.

These factors may include economic hardship and poverty which leaves marginalised groups vulnerable to mental health problems, such as low-income foreign workers, victims of abuse or violence, and individuals who are socially isolated.

In a bid to prevent more suicides, the ministry announced it is developing a national hotline to help people with suicidal thoughts and those need of advice.

“We hope to launch this soon and will update the public,” Dr Ho added.

She said although there is a link between mental illness and suicide, suicide cases are often spontaneous  in nature, happening in “moments of crisis or breakdown”.

Dr Ho urged anyone struggling with depression or other mental health issues to not be afraid or ashamed to seek help, and to reach out to their family and loved ones.

She reminded the public that there are other health services provided, such as walk-in psychology clinics.

“If you feel that you are strongly thinking of suicide, this is an emergency situation. Please go to the Accident & Emergency department of the nearest hospital,” she said. 

Dr Ho also urged the community to be more open and compassionate with regards to suicide cases, saying such matters should be handled with sensitivity and respect. 

“Everybody goes through difficult times and this does not mean that the person is weak or bad. If you know someone who is struggling with a crisis or emotional problems, treat him with care and respect.”

Yusri Hj Kifie, head of MoH’s Clinical Psychology Services told The Scoop that although the number of suicide cases is relatively small, it is still a concern that needs to be dealt with immediately. 

The Bruneian community should be more open-hearted, he said, to erase the cultural stigma that surrounds depression and suicide, as it often discourages people from seeking help. 

“We are trained staff that are non-judgmental, empathetic, respectful and caring. Anyone receiving our services are protected by the highest professional standards of confidentiality,” he said.

While the national suicide prevention hotline is still in development, the Community Development Department said vulnerable individuals can still reach out to helpline at 141, or call the Talian Darussalam hotline at 123.

This article was last updated at 11.05pm, August 5, 2018.