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Befrienders’ “support headliners” have noted an increase over the years in callers who are suicidal. (pix screenshot from Befrienders M’sia Website)

MELAKA: Befrienders’ “support headliners” have noted an increase over the years in callers who are suicidal.

Befrienders chairman Olivia Chua said the rising trend is cause for alarm as 360 out of 4,000 callers in 2016 were deemed suicidal when they sought help through the phone counselling service.

"Last year, we recorded the highest number of callers who sought help (for suicidal feelings), out of an average of 4,000 calls.

“It was a 9 per cent (rise)," she told the New Straits Times here.

Chua expressed her concern over the increase in callers struggling with suicidal thoughts and depression.

"The silver lining is that the increase also shows that those calling in were willing to open up to volunteers at our centre.

She added that the percentage of callers relaying suicidal thoughts were 5.45 per cent in 2014, but increased to 7.19 per cent in 2015 and 9 per cent last year.

Chua said that long-term depression is the main factor behind suicidality, compounded by myriad other problems the sufferers face.

"They include financial, relationship and work problems," she said.

Chua added that many of those suffering from depression lack attention and care from relatives and friends.

"We also noted that a majority of the callers are aged between 21 and 30 (who accounted for 38 per cent); while those aged between 31 and 40 accounted for 24 per cent; and those aged 61 and above accounted for 17 per cent.

"This means that youth are more willing to open up and express their feelings," she said.

Chua added that there was a balanced composition between the male and female callers.

In terms of race, she said that 82 per cent of the callers were Chinese, 11 per cent were “Others”, four per cent were Indian, and two per cent were of uncertain ethnicity. Only one per cent of callers were Malay.

"80 per cent of the callers conversed in Mandarin," she said.

Chua said the figure is a reflection of a depressed society, and urged the community to be more aware of people around them who may need emotional support.

She advised those with emotional stress and personal issues to seek help, while calling on society to be more observant of their friends and family who may be in emotional difficulty.

"In fact, people with depression can be (identified) based on their behaviour.

"They either have poor sleep quality, (engage in) little physical activity, shun society, or transform from an active social media user to a non-active social media user. Attention must be given to them," she said.

On Aug 20, a 49-year-old disabled woman shocked members of the public here when she suddenly alighted from her car and threw herself into a river.

Although rescuers were able to reach her, the woman was already unconscious when brought to the river's bank, and was confirmed dead by a medical officer from the Melaka Hospital.

Chua also called on those in need of emotional support to contact Befrienders Melaka at 06-284 2500, which operates every day from 7pm until midnight.

"We also have six other Befrienders centres in KL (24 hours), Penang, Seremban, Ipoh, Muar and Kota Kinabalu.

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