I have never met Ms X. She was a Chinese National who married a local Singaporean man. My first contact was with her newborn and I was curious that it was the grandparents who were the main caregivers. During their second visit for the baby's vaccination, I found to my horror that Ms X had committed suicide. She had been suffering from post-natal depression.
I think one of the most devastating things in life is to find out that someone you know has committed suicide. And it doesn't have to be someone you know very well. I remember when Leslie Cheung committed suicide, I was somehow affected by the news even though I can't even remember watching any of his movies. Last year, a friend of mine whom I had shared some makan adventures with was found dead at the bottom of his HDB flat. I cried, even though I did not really know him that well.
These suicides were a culmination of months of depression. They could have been helped. In Singapore, it is reported that there is one case of suicide everyday.
It is important to be able to recognize that your friend, colleague or family member may be suffering from depression and quickly get them assessed by the Doctor. It can potentially be life saving.
How to recognize Major Depression
(Modified from the DSM IV criteria)
Five of the following symptoms have to be present for at least 2 weeks:
1. Depressed mood
2. Diminished interest or pleasure in all or most activities
3. Significant weight loss or gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day
4. Unable to sleep or sleeping too much
5. Slowing of mental or physical activity or agitation
6. Fatigue or decreased level of energy
7. Feeling of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
8. Poor concentration or indecisiveness
9. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
If you think that someone you know might be suffering from major depression, it is important that you seek medical help ASAP. The patient can be helped with medication and therapy. This is especially important if the patient has expressed a desire to commit suicide which should never be taken lightly. If the doctor determines that the patient may indeed be at risk of suicide, he has the legal authority to detain the patient in a medical facility (IMH) against the patients' wishes. Friends and family members thus have a very important role to play in preventing suicide by being able to recognize the symptoms of major depression.