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 resources 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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Young Malaysians – how can we support you?

Hey EducateDeviate readers – especially from Malaysia – I need your help.

I’m planning to apply to the Sauve Scholars program, a one-year fellowship based in McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where you are given full support and resources to research, study, and work on a project of your choice.

I would like to use the year to come up with a project plan for resources that help young people find support for their passions and interests – mainly from a Malaysian perspective, as there’s nothing there (as you probably know) but involving research into how young people are supported in other countries. To do that, I first need to know what Malaysian youths need in terms of support. So:

Young Malaysians – how can we support you?

Do you need a space for support and advice?
Do you need more information about what’s out there in Malaysia and beyond?
Do you need more money?
Do you need changes in your school?
Do you need a mentor or a support group?
Do you need a club or society?

Whatever it is you want or need, feel free to comment below or email me. Anything from “I would like a personal counsellor to tell me what options I have” to “I would like a million dollars and stuff for my rock band” works. Anything at all.

If you’re not a young Malaysian but you still have ideas, feel free to contribute too. The more I know what to look for, the better I can be at making this project plan. And even if the Sauve Scholars thing doesn’t work out, I still have some concrete starting points to do something back home.

Please also forward this post to your friends and peers – the more ideas the better!

p.s. If you’ve done an undergrad degree, you’re under 30, and you have strong passions for any field of your choice, feel free to apply to Sauve Scholars too 🙂

World Youth Congress 2008 – Need Help

I’ve been accepted as one of 600 delegates (out of 5000 applications) for the World Youth Congress 2008 in Quebec, Canada. Here’s my invitation letter (I edited out my address and passport number for privacy). I was selected in the Young Journalist category based on

To go to this congress, I need to get a plane ticket to Quebec, as well as CDN$300, which covers accommodation, living costs, the conference itself, etc. It’s actually a pretty good deal as far as conferences go – the UN Youth Assembly I went to last August cost me over $2000 just for the conference package (the airfare was about the same) and it wasn’t quite worth the money. I’ve also been in touch with some of the other delegates, and they’re pretty excited about going too. It would be a marvellous opportunity if I could go.

However, I am pretty busy trying to fundraise for the KaosPilots, and I don’t really want to spend more energy and time trying to add this into the mix. The KaosPilots are already a big load on my resources. My needs for the World Youth Congress are relatively smaller – a visa, CDN$300, a plane ticket. But they still cost more money than I have.

Can you help?

I’m not willing to collect donations this time – last time I tried this, I failed spectacularly. I did send what I collected to UNICEF Malaysia via Western Union, but I have no idea if they got it or not. However, if you can sponsor me a plane ticket to Quebec – whether through frequent flyer miles, actual purchase of the ticket, or some other means – I would be more than grateful. It’d also be great if you knew anyone working in the airline industry (or if you work in an airline!) that could help me.

Thanks!

Bloggers’ Challenge – Get $30 To Support Education

Six Apart, the company behind Movable Type, TypePad, and LiveJournal, have just announced a Bloggers Challenge to help schools, by raising money for various schools programs in the US.

To participate, just send an email to donorschoose@sixapart.com by 5pm Pacific Time October 1st to get a $30 gift certificate to donate to any DonorsChoose project.

DonorsChoose is an American initiative whereby schools and classrooms post projects and needs online and get funding from the public. Among the projects include buying handheld tools to teach maths, building a garden weather station, and getting an LCD projector for history class. While all the projects and schools are based in the US, anyone from any country can participate. You are also welcome to sponsor other projects with your own money once you redeem your gift certificate. There are also other blogger challenges, as well as the option to start your own.

Help support education – join the Six Apart Bloggers’ Challenge for DonorsChoose!

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