Statistics on Emergency Calls on Suicides and Mental Health Conditions

Anthea Indira Ong
3 min readMar 3, 2020

Parliamentary Question, 3 March 2020

Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Home Affairs (a) in the last three years, how many (i) emergency calls and (ii) 999 calls were received by the SCDF and Police respectively that are related to suicides and mental health conditions; (b) how many of these calls were false alarms; © what is the average and total number of hours spent by these frontline officers supporting people with mental health difficulties; (d) how are frontline officers trained to conduct psychological or other appropriate interventions; (e) how many persons attempting suicide were (i) able to receive timely support from emergency services and (ii) not able to receive such support and died by suicide before emergency services could reach them; and (f) why it is not feasible to adopt a specialised mental health ambulance or emergency response team.

Mr K Shanmugam: From 2017 to 2019, Police received an average of 1,204 reports of attempted suicides each year.

We do not have statistics on the number of false alarms, the number of persons who were found dead from suicide by the time emergency services arrived, nor the total number of hours spent by our officers to engage persons with mental health issues.

When the Police receive a report of attempted suicide, the nearest available resource will be dispatched to respond quickly to the case. If medical intervention is needed, the SCDF will also send the nearest available ambulance to the scene. If you want specialised “mental health ambulances” then you will have to have these in sufficient numbers to respond immediately to cases at any part of the island. That would not be a sensible approach. The right approach is to quickly get to such persons, with the use of normal ambulances, and make sure they get care. They can receive specialised mental healthcare thereafter.

All Police officers receive training on how to manage cases involving individuals who are mentally distressed or traumatised. They also undergo regular refreshers through after-action reviews of such incidents.

Where necessary, the frontline officers will activate additional resources to assist with the case such as SCDF’s Disaster Assistance and Rescue Teams (DART) and the Police’s Crisis Negotiation Unit (CNU). DART is specially trained for complex rescue operations, including cases of attempted suicide at height and in confined spaces. CNU has Police officers and psychologists who are trained in suicide intervention. This includes how to negotiate with the person attempting suicide to dissuade them from doing so.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

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