In Malaysia a suicide attempt is a criminal offence under Section 309 of the Penal Code but it hasn't stopped our highly pressurised young.
KUALA LUMPUR: Suicide is one of the 10 leading causes of death in the world. Each year some 400,000 people take their own lives and the pattern of these incidences is variably influenced by cultural, religious and social values.
In Malaysia, for instance, the Chinese community tops the suicide list and coming at a close second are Indians.
According to a research conducted by the Forensic Pathology Unit in Universiti Malaya, incidents of suicides were very prevalent among the Chinese young, with the highest number of cases reported in the 21-30 year age category.
The Chinese comprise 22.9% of Malaysia’s 28.3 million population.
The study also noted that the most common form of suicide adopted by the Chinese was “jumping” off high buildings.
Other common methods adopted by the Indian and Malay were suicide by poisoning and hanging.
While Indians opted for poison as a means to end their lives, few Malays chose suicide.
According to the study, Malays, who comprise some 68% of the population, recorded the lowest rate of suicide.
The survey was based on 251 suicides – 164 males and 87 females – with victims falling in the 15 to 80 years group.
The survey noted that in Malaysia methods of suicide also depended on the environment, availability of suicidal materials, nature of job, and other personal beliefs.
For instance, the workers in the plantation sector in Malaysia often resorted to ingestion of agro-chemicals such as paraquat because of its free availability.
Social values and religion
According to various studies, religion also appeared to be one of the important factors that control the rate of suicides.
Islam forbids suicide and the social support system within the community is strong and able to look after those who have problems.
Studies noted, too, that Hindus and Buddhists believe in rebirth and both religions do not have strong sanctions against suicide.
For many of the Chinese, research showed that their achievement-oriented upbringing and the importance placed on family interests played a big role in suicides.
Pressure to do well starts at a very young age. Hence, the Chinese youth face enormous pressure and stress early in life which invariably lead to anxiety, depression and even suicide in the event of failure to achieve the expected target.
According to psychologist Johana Johari, suicide among races boils down to their belief system, their mental and emotional resilience and whether they see death as the easiest way out of their predicament.
“We want to look at suicidal thoughts that causes suicidal behaviours.
“Drug abuse such as mixing a cocktail social drug with alcohol can alter the chemical balance in the brain, bringing about the onset of mental disorders such as bipolar, schizophrenia. Depression and despair are also causes to be considered,” she opined.
More men commit suicide
Another interesting fact from the study is that suicide incidents were higher among men.
Johana said there were various reasons for this.
“Men don’t confide in friends or families regarding their problems. It is not the male social culture to ‘talk’ about their problems in general.
“Men generally feel a much bigger burden of responsibility to excel in life, to provide well, to serve and protect their loved ones.
“When they feel they are failing to do so and experience a loss of control over their lives and circumstances, they are prone to fall into a much deeper depression as opposed to women.
“Mental disorder, unemployment, loneliness, lack of social skills, lack of self-confidence, anxiety, loss [love, property, wealth, job, grief, divorce], chronic illness, homelessness, and extreme financial burden are just some of the causes,” she said.
Meanwhile, the National Suicide Registry Malaysia (NSRM) has also concurred with the findings of the Forensic Pathology Unit.
According to their statistics for the period July-December 2007, of the 113 suicide cases reported, 82 cases involved men. Forty-one of these men were married.
Crisis with ‘other half’
NSRM principal investigator Dr Nor Hayati Ali said the commonest life event which preceded the suicidal act was a crisis with their “other half”.
Other problems like financial, legal and job-related issues also came into the picture.
She said the findings also showed that men were more resolute when it came to committing suicide.
“However, this trend needs a deeper analysis and needs to be observed for a longer term. Our maiden report covered only a six-month period,” she said in an e-mail to FMT.
Nor Hayati said data for the NSRM’s 2007 report was compiled via a coordinated effort involving forensic departments in the Health Ministry’s hospitals and this would be gradually expanded to include teaching hospitals, which are hospitals under the Education Ministry.
She said that out of the 113 NSRM-documented cases, 95 of them (or 87%) were Malaysians, while the others were foreigner nationals.
Among the Malaysians, Chinese accounted for the most number of cases at 43%, followed by Indians (27%) and Malays at (11%).
She reminded that these figures were “absolute numbers” and not as accurate as “suicide rates”.