Stupidest idea for suicide prevention ever.

The Malaysian police is planning to criminalise suicide by arresting those who attempt suicide. According to their twisted logic, jail is enough of a deterrent and besides, they can be counselled in jail anyway.

STUPIDEST. IDEA. EVER.

Mental health, depression, and suicide are issues that touch me deeply. I have lived with depression and anxiety for about half my life now, and I have attempted suicide before. Thankfully I have found Skincare Rejuvenation’s review and people that were able to reach out to me with compassion and kindness, and now I’m living a full happy life while managing my mental health.

I could hardly get anyone to respect me, or others with mental health issues, in school. We were all brushed off with “oh it’s just in your head” and “don’t do your exams here, you’ll just bring the pass rate down” (for what it’s worth, our school had a 100% pass rate on the SPM, even with at least 2 confirmed mental health cases taking the exam). The emails that I receive nowadays through EducateDeviate show that nothing much has changed. I still get people asking me for help, despairing that their dilemmas over university choices and their families not accepting their dreams are enough to push them over the edge.

Here are some things about depression:

  • Depression can be caused by a number of things: malfunctioning neurons and hormones, stressful situations, genetics – or some other links that are currently being researched. It’s both biological and environmental.
  • There are currently a lot of therapies, both conventional and alternative, that help with depression – medication, psychology, naturopathy, massage, acupuncture, colour therapy, sports, other things. Different things help for different people.
  • People who attempt or commit suicide usually feel like they’ve run out of options, or that they’re crying out for help. When you’re suicidal or depressed it’s extremely hard to think about other people’s reactions because you’re stuck in the brainwave of “no one cares about me anyway, I’m useless”. Jail is not a deterrent.

Here’s what helped me through my many years of ups and downs with depression:

  • Helplines like The Befrienders, who I absolutely recommend. Give them a call or email if you’re depressed and need an ear. sam@befrienders.org.my, 03 7956 8144/5.
  • The company of supportive and caring friends and family, who didn’t hold my depression against me and treated me with patience and compassion.
  • Being involved in fun, fulfilling projects that fitted my interests (a lot of my depression had to do with feeling “trapped” in situations I wasn’t fond of but felt obligated to do).
  • Medication and psychological therapy – it’s great to talk to experts about practical ways to manage the depression.
  • Breathing, meditation, flexible sports like yoga, dance, or circus – it takes your mind off the depression for the moment as you concentrate on your moves.
  • Self-care like massage, good books, a filling meal – this is something we absolutely suck in as a country, and which I’m still working on. Our culture doesn’t encourage taking care of ourselves – and yet it’s absolutely necessary for survival.

I read this article on suicide in South Korea and it saddened and worried me. So many of the factors mentioned in the article – the pressure to succeed, saving face, honour in death – are also evident in Malaysia. Yet our mental health services are almost non-existent, particularly for young people who may not have enough independence to seek out their own psychiatrist or counsellor. School counsellors may not be of much help too, if they follow the line of “suicide is a sin!” – yeah, as if that’ll help anybody.

How else can we create awareness and compassion for mental health in Malaysia? How do we help those trapped in the web of suicide and depression?

Some other pertinent links:

The suicidal need support, not punishment (Letter from T. Maniam, National rep of the International Association for Suicide Prevention)
Suicide a cry for help (letter from The Befrienders)
Hostile reception pushes Bostwanian students to the brink of suicide (hooray racism!)
Suicide rate high among ethnic Indians in Malaysia
Excerpt from “Suicide Prevention” about suicide rates in ethnic Indian communities in Malaysia

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Racist brainwashing by Biro Tatanegara – GRR

Biro Tatanegara (rough translation: Civics Bureau) is a Government-run agency that organises mandatory “citizenship” workshops for students that have received Government scholarships for tertiary education. Under the guise of “education” and “building a multicultural Malaysian culture”, these workshops are hubs of anti-Chinese/Indian/etc racism and anti-Semitism, shaming non-Malays while claiming Malaysia to be a Malay-only nation.

Education in Malaysia has been compiling stories from students and observers of these workshops. Here’s an excerpt of their experiences:

Jew-blaming:

…Malaysiakini reported that first-year students of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) were told at a seminar organised by BTN that foreign elements which want to see chaos in Malaysia were funding certain student groups. The speakers drew a link between these local student groups, ASA and the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit organisation which they said was sponsored by American and Jewish elements.

Indians, blogs, and Christians are evil:

He even said, “Kalau ular dengan India depan mata, ketuk India dulu.” (If a snake and an Indian are in front of you, hit the Indian first.) … He said so many atrocious things that I will list them down in point form.

-Explained how the Malays aren’t racist but others are racist towards us.
-Bangsa Malaysia (The Malaysian race) does not exist, neither does Malaysian Chinese and Indians, only in the strict Malay, Chinese and Indians. (Interestingly, behind a booklet provided to us, one of the objectives of the programme is to produce a -“Bangsa Malaysia”. Obviously, he was ignorant).
-Bahasa Malaysia (Malaysian language) does not exist, it is Bahasa Melayu (Malay language).
-Nothing wrong with waving the Keris (A traditional ceremonial Malay dagger which some politicians have waved in anti-non-Malay sentiment).
-Bumiputra (Malays and indigenous people) hanya 55% di Malaysia, give birth more people!
-The University and Colleges Act was partly made to ensure a Malay Vice-Chancellor in Universities which should be the way.
-Blogs are “berdosa” or sinful.
-Christians will not like Muslims.

Even the Malays reacted badly:

The instructors blatantly told them that they should not question the rights and privileges of the Malays as the non-Malays should be thankful that they were given citizenship status and a place to stay on their soil. My daughter together with the other non-Malay students was shocked and went back to their dormitories depressed. And to the Malay students, the instructors told them to be aware of this fact and not to mix too freely with the non-Malays.

A Malay friend of my daughter came back crying to the dormitory saying that she could not take the racist position taken by the government authority. My daughter then began questioning the bumiputra policy and was disgusted with such blatant indoctrination. This incident has also made the students harbour anger and resentment. Their fear for the authorities and losing their scholarships made them keep their cool.

When Education in Malaysia blogger and MP Tony Pua queried Biro Tatanegara about these allegations, this was their reply, as roughly translated into English by me (it’s originally in Malay):

Biro Tatanegara is an agency that runs courses based on citizenship and patriotic spirit within the whole of Malaysian society. Participants of these courses come from various cultures and age groups.

BTN also uses information or statistics that are obtained from other government agencies such as the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), the Statistics Department, the Implementation and Adjustment(?) Unit (ICU), the Ministry of Finance, and other Ministries in presenting facts to the participants, and it is departmental policy to not allow BTN speakers to touch on anything that can disturb the feelings of any race, and if this has happened the Department will drop them from being a BTN speaker.

In relation to your query, BTN realises that it’s on the blogs on the Internet, and based on our investigations, [your] claims (the bit about the snake and the Indian) are false. It is possible that some speakers had explained a few Indian proverbs relating to Indian societal matters that were misunderstood by the listener. Investigations have been undertaken and we have found no recordings that could be used as proof to verify the allegation.

As for your second query, BTN has never received any complaints about the matters that you have mentioned, and as far as we know there has not been any airing of videos like the ones you described (anti-Semitic clips) in our courses as organised by the Department.

According to past scholars that have attended such workshops, all recording devices (including mobile phones) are confiscated upon entry and all materials are carefully counted upon return. Many have said that they are too fearful to speak out as they are threatened with the loss of their scholarship – which, considering that many recipients are from low-income backgrounds and there aren’t many other funding options available, would be a major blow.

This sickens me to the core. I’ve heard plenty of racism in school but was lucky enough to not get a Government scholarship and therefore be indoctrinated into BTN’s faulty logic. Some of those that have been to these workshops have sadly reported on their peers passing on racist messages through social networking sites and being completely influenced by these workshops. If anyone’s threatening national security, it would be these goons!

I would like to see a private scholarship fund started for these students, so that they still have funding options for higher study without being gagged and afraid to speak up. There should be a way to get recordings of these workshops, even if it means James Bond-style spy gear. This menace – which is 100% funded by taxpayer money! – needs to disappear.

(Side note to Mum: I’m sorry for scaring you again. [I participated in a rally against the Clean Feed filter in Brisbane and spoke up about censorship in Malaysia – she saw my words and video and got scared.] I take full responsibility for anything that comes out of this. But unless things are done quickly, more and more young people will be brainwashed and we’ll just have an intolerant nation.)

Malaysian Youth Index – Absolute Rubbish

The Malaysian Youth Index is an analysis of surveys done on 4087 young people in Malaysia aged 15-40 in 2006. The idea was to get a feel for how young people in Malaysia are faring and what they get up to in their spare time.

It’s absolute RUBBISH!

The Index does not tell you anything about what young people are doing, feeling, or thinking – it’s stuck in moralising and patronising tones and is completely filled with bogus assumptions. The only good thing about it is that it reveals that most of the backlash against youth is just a big moral panic – though I’d disagree with their assertion that it’s the media’s fault and say that it’s mainly the Government pushing such anti-youth views in the first place.

Here’s what’s wrong with it specifically:

The Survey in General: Firstly, Malaysia seems to be the only country that defines youth as 15-40 years old. (there’s tons of problems with that act already but that’s worth a separate post.) The United Nations defines it as between 15-24 (with the Rights of the Child declaration going up to 18) and recommends separate analysis of teenagers and young adults. Those above 24 – or even 30 to be more permissive – have very different lifestyles; they are more likely to have worked for a while, started a family, and be more settled, whereas youth are still developing themselves and seeking their life path. This disparity is evidenced by the age range of people in the Youth sections of Malaysian political parties – most of them are closer to 40 than 14. This does not give an accurate representation of youth at all.

Also, the language use in the website is deplorable. I understand that there may have been language barriers, and that the document was most likely originally drafted in Malay. However, for a Government publication, editing and proofreading is crucial. Presentation is important, and the lack of care for the language shows a lack of care for the project overall.

The numbers and terms used in the analysis are very vague – what’s the difference between “good” and “very good”? How do you define those terms? Is a 70 “good” or “neutral”?

There is also no demographic information at all – what are the typical age ranges of the youth surveyed? Are they studying, working, having a family? What race are they? (I personally do not want this question to ever be asked, but it’s such a common thing in Malaysian research that it seems odd not to consider it.) Are they in urban, suburban, rural areas? What are their interests? Basically – who are the youth being surveyed? This would have a major impact on the results, as it could indicate a major skew in demographics.

Self Development: The terms used here are vague and open-ended. What do they mean by “Self-Esteem” and “Self-Efficacy”? Are the interviewees the best source of self-reflection? What does it mean to have “good Emotion”? Why is “Depression” on there – why not consult medical records? (Though it’s unsurprising to see a low number for that and for “no stress”). How do you measure those things anyway? It would be better to ask them in terms of activity or reaction – “if this happened, what would you do?” or “how would you react if…”?

Social Development: Why is the ONLY category here “relationship with parents”? Where are the measurements for relationships with friends, loved ones, other relatives (inc siblings), schoolmates, teachers, colleagues, mentors? What about those whose parents have divorced or separated, or who are orphans? What about those who consider other people as their parental figures? Again, how do you measure a “good relationship” – number of heart-to-heart chats? Good will? Presents bought?

Identity: Again, this just involves very vague terms and does not accurately reflect how youths really identify themselves. How about asking about their choice of clothing, associations, media? (this does get asked but in a later section.) How about their choice of friends or activities? Marketing people are usually good with this sort of thing.

The report claims that volunteerism and political activity is low – well, firstly, it’s not necessarily easy to do such work in Malaysia when it’s illegal for university students to join outside societies or political parties (the proposed amendments apparently make it easier, but there’s still a prohibition against blacklisted by the Home Minister, which could be anything) – if they did so, would they admit it in a Government survey? The demographic information would be very useful here – they may have deliberately targeted a more politically apathetic subsection (I certainly haven’t seen any open calls for youth census info). Also, many young people get involved in things that they won’t necessarily immediately associate with volunteering – such as Interact/Rotary/Kiwanis work, school clubs, or just helping a friend out. Asking specific questions about activities is crucial here.

Health: Why are they asking the youth themselves for this info – isn’t this what medical records are for? Anyway, they’re asking about really major diseases that don’t often happen amongst young people. However, this doesn’t mean that youths are necessarily healthy – it’s not diseases but habits that indicate that. Do they exercise? Do they eat well? What do they eat? How do they take care of themselves (do they)? There was a survey some time back about how artists perceive their health as being good yet reported all sorts of symptoms that could lead to moderate/major illnesses (sore muscles, headaches, low appetite, etc) – could this be happening here too?

Self Potential: Very, very vague. How do you measure entrepreneurship? Leadership? Skills? What skills? What about skills – how much do they know, how much are they willing to learn, how do they learn? This section would have been better off being measured through external evaluations and observation – people can have skewed perceptions of their own abilities.

Media Penetration: The results show what sort of media youths use, but it doesn’t reflect how much information they absorb or what they do with the media. “Computers and Internet” is unnecessarily broad – there are vast uses, from blogging to gaming to creating own works. How about alternative media? Oh wait – that’d get you arrested.

Leisure Time: The survey results imply that youths do nothing with their time. However, there’s obviously more to life than sports, exercise, or clubs! Young people hang out, they work, they meet friends, they travel, they read, they help their familiesm they indulge in their own hobbies, they do all sorts of things. Limiting it to three is not helpful, and will of course show that youth are “lazy” – when indeed they are extremely productive and have contributed heaps to the national economy. (That report, produced by a Canadian agency for the UN, is much more reflective of Malaysian youth issues.)

Deviant Behaviour: Hello moralising! With that tone, who’s going to admit they partake in “deviant behaviour”? What if they don’t find it deviant? (Don’t give me the tripe about “all religions and cultures believe the same things are deviant” – this ignores the vast diversities in Malaysian culture.) Some of these measures shouldn’t come from asking young people – they should come from medical and police records. Besides, what’s “obscene” or “loitering” specifically?

With extremely vague categories and a distinct lack of categories in some sections, lots of moralising, and generally awful methodology, it’s pretty obvious that the Ministry of Youth and Sports have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. They’re planning an International Conference on Youth Research at UKM in December – I can’t decide whether to go or not. On the one hand, I could set them straight and get proper insight; on the other hand, if this is how they do their research, it could all just be a huge mess.

Youth Helping Youth: Pinkpau’s Guide to US College Applications

American college applications are a strange beast. I considered applying to a few US colleges before but the sheer number of alien acronyms, requirements, and costs (not to mention the fact that I would theoretically be a “transfer” but wanted to start over) gave me too much of a headache. It is a wonder sometimes that there are international students in the US tertiary system at all!

Writer and general busy bee Su Ann, also known as PinkPau, went through this herself last year and has succeeded in getting herself a spot in a top US university (I believe Columbia but I could be mistaken). She has helpfully provided a comprehensive guide to US applications for Malaysian students, whether fresh out of secondary school or in pre-university programs. This first part of her guide also includes a sample resume for the applications (don’t let the sheer number of achievements scare you!), as well as a sample fee waiver letter – really useful as US college applications can go higher than US$50 each and many people typically apply to a few at once.

Su Ann will publish a few more guides, including one on writing the application essays. She’s also happy to answer questions till January, the end of application deadlines.

Asking a qualified college counselor experienced in US colleges is the ideal option, as is contacting the university, but Su Ann has a very friendly peer perspective and definitely makes a great start. I wish I had her guides three years ago!

Guest Post: Max Norman – Being a Diplomat in a Multicultural World

Max Norman is the main blogger of Ask The Kid, where he provides answers to life’s queries from the perspective of a young person. We are pleased to bring you a guest post by him today:


Being a Diplomat in a Multicultural World

We no longer live in a world of nations and governments; we live in a world of sects and movements, religions and cultures. As you already know, these differences have lead to great conflict and senseless hate. As the next generation, we must embrace this world, for it can not be changed. We need to learn the art of diplomacy in a new fashion, for a new world. It is up to us to re sow the seeds of peace and well being, of enlightenment and education, because the world will fall apart without peace; people will keep fighting until the end. If you practice diplomacy, you will set yourself apart, gain respect and help make the world a more peaceful place.

These skills aren’t something you can learn in school. They must be tried, tested and refined in the real world with real people. The family unit is a fairly apt forum to practice the majority of your diplomacy abilities, although the broader skills must be engaged with other, different people. To start off, you must learn how to communicate your thoughts effectively–this is usually what starts conflicts. Speak, write or illustrate ideas in a simple manner in a common language, and spend all the necessary time to get your point across. Staying persistent reaffirms confidence in relationships, because it shows that you are patient and willing to accept differences; this makes a good impression. It is VERY important to make a good first impression, but remember that with each culture, virtues change. Do research to explore the manners and courtesy of the person’s/organization’s culture.

Understanding motivations is a key tool for solving problems and creating new relationships, even if the motivation is foreign and seems unfounded. Everyone is driven by passion, which can be used to sway their feelings; if one can tap their driving force and aim it in a new direction, your goal is achieved. This must be done using rhetorical skills and demonstrations persistently to convince them of the right way to go. For example, if a criminal is shown the consequences of crime, then shown how much better life is preventing crime, many times they will migrate away from illegality. If not, a stern action–like an arrest–can set them on the road to enlightenment. This applies directly to conflict: if you show the trouble makers why they are wrong, provide a solution and foster change, people might just change their minds, which even in small increments advances your cause. Motivation never goes away; it just shifts in a new direction.

In our world today, a lot of violence is fueled by heritage. In Iraq, the Sunnis are fighting the Shiites because once very long ago, one of the sects–it is not known which–murdered a relative of Mohammed, the creator of Islam. The terrorists who kill themselves for these causes were told to do so from a very young age, which is important to keep in mind. This same pattern occurs is most religious wars, and must be taken into account when negotiating and appeasing members of these parties. One must at least appear independent of both sides, and talk as equals to find out what is causing this violence. From there, steps can be made to appease warring factions.

The quest for peace is as old as humankind. Until recently, diplomacy was on the national level with governments and rulers, but it has now shifted to sects, organizations and cultures—all different. To negotiate for peace, you need to be able to communicate your solutions effectively, and always understand that determination is not superficial: much conflict is brought about by deeply rooted emotional factors such as religion and history. Practice these skills; use them at home and at school, for you will be the ones using them in the future. Even in the best of times, conflict will not be completely vanquished, but diplomacy can work on issues bit by bit, every one bringing you closer to peace.


If you’d like to contribute a guest post for EducateDeviate, feel free to contact me with your ideas. I’m particularly looking for contributions from young people on topics that interest them.

The Oncologist Fallacy (or Why University Rankings are Unreliable)

This is an argument that I often receive when debating the merit of applying to a university solely based on their prestige or ranking. Ming, sorry, I don’t mean to pick on you, but you’ve articulated the argument very well.

If getting treatment from the best oncologist in the world is within the means for a cancer patient, chances are she will do so.

Besides the obvious, that education is nothing like medicine, there are a few reasons why statements like that don’t stand when it comes to choosing a university, or choosing your educational direction in general.

1. You don’t go to see an oncologist if you’re having problems with your foot, or if you’re feeling fine. Similarly, not every university is suited for everyone. Harvard is often the standard for “top university”, but you wouldn’t be happy at Harvard if you prefer smaller classrooms and you’re very artistic and rather hippie-ish. As far as I know, Harvard doesn’t have a great creative arts/creative industries faculty. To use a statement now stressed by many college counselors and university faculty everywhere, university is a MATCH, not a TROPHY. You should be aiming for the school that best matches your needs, ideals, and personality – even if it turns out to be an obscure school in the middle of nowhere.

2. There isn’t a single “best oncologist”; no one doctor holds the monopoly on quality. Just because XYZ Doctor managed to hold the top post, doesn’t mean all the other doctors below him are crap. Similarly, just because XYZ University did not rate very high on the rankings, does not mean they’re terrible and are not worth a look. There are many brilliant universities (and doctors) out there, particularly in regions like Western Europe, Scandinavia, Africa, South America, New Zealand/rest of Oceania, and other places that just don’t figure into traditional ranks. It is really stupid to think that only a handful of universities are able to provide a top-notch learning environment.

3. Best according to who? Rankings, despite looking objective, are actually rather subjective – it all depends on how the ranking body decides to calculate their criteria. How would you put into numbers something like “satisfaction of student body” or “best match for your needs”? The U.S. News, which is generally the “gold standard” for US university rankings, have come under fire for putting in false information for colleges that refuse to participate in the rankings. So are the rankings necessarily reliable? Not when you have a growing backlash of colleges against it. It’s not just America either; there has been criticism over the UK’s Times Higher Education List, as well as Canada’s Maclean’s list.

4. How honest is the oncologist? It’s not just the rankings body that messes up numbers; some universities are also cheating at the game. There is a major lack of transparency on both sides about how the numbers are calculated and calibrated. There is no way for us to know that the numbers are at all accurate or representative, so why rely on them as your main – or only – source of information. It would be far better to do more research on each university individually, getting information straight from the source, and making up your own minds based on your own needs.

5. Everything happens in context. You may have found the best oncologist, but what if they live too far away? Or they’re booked up for months? Or if they’re too expensive for your budget? Similarly, there are many other considerations to make when choosing a university. Where are they located – is it an atmosphere you enjoy, is the weather good, can you afford to live there? How about the student body – how homogenized (or not) are they? Is it small or big? Are the classes heavy on theory, or are they more practical? Does the school expect you to do an internship or semester abroad as part of the course? Does one course differ from another in style? There are many aspects that make up the learning process of a university, and are things that aren’t necessarily reflected well in rankings.

6. Can you afford it? Another argument that is usually made for going to a “top university” is that they supposedly give you a lot of funding, so you can afford to go. Never mind their extreme selectiveness; it is extremely difficult to get funding for studies, particularly if you’re an international student. In many countries, international students are expected to pay full-fee, and scholarships are highly limited. FAFSA, which is the US Government’s way of working out financial aid, is not applicable to international students. The world of financial aid is mysterious and complex, especially if you’re a “high-ranking” university – funding resources are limited and not all of them can afford to (or want to) support students that can’t pay full fee. Interestingly, there are a growing number of smaller-scale universities that are open and willing to give full financial support – they are often more attuned to student welfare (treating the students as individuals with needs and desires) and don’t have to deal with too much internal competition.

Looking for a good university or college? Don’t put too much stock on ratings. Do your own research, and you’re more likely to find the choice that’s best for you – and save a lot of money, time, effort, and heartache.

Relevant Reading:

Young Malaysian Entrepreneurs eBook – Where are the WOMEN?

Daniel and I are sorting through the nominations for the Young Malaysians Entrepreneurs eBook, and there’s a glaring omission:

Where are the WOMEN?

We have about a gazillion male nominations, but less than a handful of female nominations. We are sure that there are wonderful young Malaysian females out there being enterprising – we just want to know where you are.

We would be very happy if you visit one of our site which is Female Whizzinator.

Go and nominate some women now!