Sunday, May 20, 2007

I read with alarm this report on Sunday Times: Suicides by older folk on the rise again

Three classic examples:

COOPED up alone in his one-room flat, nearly blinded by diabetes, 57-year-old Chiew Han Sai led a bleak and lonely life. At 2am on Oct 18 last year, he jumped from his seventh-floor Toa Payoh flat. He died instantly.

Diabetes had also taken a toll on retiree Andrew Cheng (not his real name), 92. In April last year, shortly after doctors told the Tampines resident they would have to amputate his gangrenous leg, he too jumped to end his life.

Housewife Tan Ah Moy, (not her real name), 67, from Jurong was plagued by demons of a different kind - she thought someone was going to kill her. A fortnight ago, the mother of two was found dead at the foot of her block. Investigations are on. But suicide, once more, is the likely cause.

Sad isn't it? Having lived for 3/4 of a century, been through the hardships of more than half their lifespan, why did they choose to end their lives towards the twilight of their lives? And suicide rates among older folk here were among the highest worldwide, a new piece of information that I have just digested myself.

I looked to the old people I know, all around me, for an answer. But they can't provide me with one. Because I do not know of any old people who live a financially difficult and spiritually meaningless life. Are they being kept out of sight in our society, as Michael Foucault eloquently claimed that prisons and mental hospitals keep the unwanted away from the larger society.

I can only imagine, that if I'm 65, and what will drive me to take my own life. This analysis shall not be as profound as Emile Durkheim's much celebrated study of Suicide.

Money: My grandma spends close to half a grand everytime she goes for medical checkup and review. not a small sum at all. Therefore if i have no money for the medical fees i shall end my life.

Family: An advanced and materialistic society, with a rocketing cost of living will see the rise of children abandon parents cases. if the children i have brough up through sweat and blood abandon me, one can feel the pain and anguish, and probably blaming oneself for not inculcating the values of filial piety when they were younger. being such a failure, i will take my own life.

Partner: Having spend the large part of my life with the special one, if she is to leave before me, then it could be meaningless for me to carry on myself.

Politics: If Singapore still remain a one party state by the time I retire then the stiffened and suppressed society might drive me to despair and despondency that I might just kill myself.

Okie, the last point was a joke. I won't kill myself for that, but i genuinely want a vibrant civil society where state and people share the power.

I think the reasons are all directly or indirectly linked to finance and family. Finance, a state can aid directly, but family is a little tricky.

I remember an earlier article on old folks leaving in those one room flats. This quotation has stucked in my mind ever since. When asked if she is afriad of death, this old lady replied:

'why should I be afraid... what do you think I'm waiting for...?'

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