Chinese community hit hardest amid Malaysia’s suicide surge

Suicide rates in Malaysia have surged in recent years, the country’s deputy prime minister told parliament – with 4,440 Malaysians taking their own lives since 2019.

Men in Malaysia were four times more likely to die by suicide than women, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Tuesday while revealing the statistics.

“The number of suicides has surged, particularly since 2021, with almost or over 1,000 cases per passing year,” he said in a statement after chairing a meeting of the National Social Council.

“There were 609 cases in 2019, 621 in 2020, 1,142 in 2021, 981 in 2022, and 1,087 last year.”

Most suicides involved men, with over 3,600 cases, while more than 780 involved women, Ahmad Zahid said, added that there was concern about the Chinese community experiencing the highest number of suicides annually since 2019.

There is no doubt that the country is currently experiencing drastic social and economic change

Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

Suicides were the second highest among foreigners over the past five years, followed by Indians and Malays, he said.

“There is no doubt that the country is currently experiencing drastic social and economic change,” Ahmad Zahid said.

“[This is] due to the emergence of various new trends such as demographic changes, urbanisation, digital innovation, economic inequality, changing global economic power, and global hyperconnectivity,” he said.

“This change has resulted in significant shifts in terms of social behaviours, cultural change, and behavioural change, as well as a dynamic change in family institutions and general society.”

Morning commuters prepare to board a train in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month. Photo: Bloomberg

The deputy prime minister said this showed “a significant need for drastic early change in social policy approaches to keep up”.

Malaysia’s National Mental Health Crisis Line, or HEAL Line 15555 (Help with Empathy and Love), received more than 48,900 calls from October 2022 to June this year, Ahmad Zahid revealed.

Of these calls, a total of 28,870 received emotional support, while 20,030 involved special interventions such as psychoeducation, positive coping skills, and cognitive behaviour therapy.

If you have suicidal thoughts or know someone who is experiencing them, help is available. In Hong Kong, you can dial 18111 for the government-run Mental Health Support Hotline. You can also call +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. For a list of other nations’ helplines, see this page.
This article was first published by The Star

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