Any parent would not wish a prison sentence upon their child . But for one embattled Singaporean family, jail may be the only way to keep their teenage daughter alive.
In the past year, the girl who can only be identified as Mandy, has tried to kill herself ten times.
Recent suicide attempts
On August 31 2011, Mandy had asked her father,(only known as James), to take her to Bishan library to meet a friend. When she arrived, Mandy went to a nearby supermarket and bought a box of paracetamol.
Mandy swallowed the entire box of pills and headed to meet her friend at the library.
Mandy had told her friend that she was ill and asked her to take her to a seek medical treatment. She was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital. A week later, Mandy attempted suicide again when she sat on the ledge on the third storey of a multi-storey car park at Kim Keat Avenue. Fortunately, police officers arrived in time to convince her to move away from the ledge.
Past attempts to take her own life
Mandy’s previous suicide attempts in the last year were unsuccessful, but it seems that her troubles began at an earlier age. James told reporters that Mandy’s first suicide attempt occurred when she was in Secondary 1. That happened in hospital. James had taken her there after she had fits and was shocked when he was told that his daughter had taken an overdose of her medication.
James said Mandy’s suicidal attempts made her drop out of secondary school, so Mandy then joined a course of study at the ITE. But she attempted suicide by cutting her wrist in front of her Institute of Technical Education (ITE) classmates, After this incident, James took her out of the school.
A father’s dilemma
A father’s dilemma
Now James is in a double bind: Mandy has been diagnosed as ‘mentally sound’ by the Insititute of Mental Health (IMH) but her family is exhausted by the strain of watching out for her. As James elaborates:
“Over the years, I have taken her to seek treatment at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), but I was told that she is mentally sound. She can’t stay in IMH and I am unable to watch her 24/7 at home. I don’t know what is a safe place for her to be in. I need to work as my family depends on me. There is no one to take care of her and I worry about her every time I leave the house for work.”
Mandy currently faces ten charges of attempted suicide and is looking at a possible jail term of up to a year. Although James does not wish that Mandy goes to prison, it maybe the only option that could save her from herself, as James said, “What can I do? I can only leave it to the judge to decide for me. It’s her fate.”.
District Judge Shaifuddin Saruwan considered Mandy’s case for a long time during a lengthy session at the District Court. After over an hour of waiting, Shaifuddin sentenced Mandy to one year of probation on the condition that she seeks treatment at the IMH. He said that Mandy was neither suitable for a mandatory treatment order, nor was she recommended for probation.
But Shaifuddin outlined the following condition to Mandy: “If you breach the condition, you will be back before me and I will have to deal with you. I hope we do not have to come to that. I know you can do it.” Mandy is scheduled for a court review later this year.
A new beginning
Mandy told reporters that she was glad to go home.
“After I was released, I went home for a hot bath, then my father took me out for a haircut. And I had my favourite steak for dinner,” said Mandy.
“I am grateful to the judge for the chance to start life afresh.”
Watching out for warning signs
People who repeatedly attempt suicide are not just crying out for attention — it is highly likely that they are prepared to kill themselves. Here are ten signs you should look out for if you think someone is suicidal.
1. Suddenly giving away or selling off prized possessions
2. Overwhelming feelings of anxiety and/or sorrow at inappropriate times
3. Loss of interest in pastimes formerly enjoyed
4. A sensation of hopelessness, lack of self-esteem and feelings of guilt
5. Fatigue and overall lower energy levels
6. Posting suicidal thoughts on Facebook or other social networking sites
7. Suicidal thoughts and recurring thoughts about death
8. Irritability, restlessness and short temper
9. Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
10. Difficulty in maintaining close or romantic relationships
Remember you are never alone
If you or someone you know is suicidal, remember that taking your life is never a solution. There are many avenues that you can reach out to if you have suicidal thoughts.
If you are uncomfortable talking to your family or loved ones, here are some organizations that you can contact for help:
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): 1800-2214444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-2837019
Sage Counselling Centre: 1800-5555555
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling: 1800-3535800