Escalation of Suicide Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic in Malaysia: Progressive Strategies for Prevention
The COVID-19 global health crisis has inflicted a tremendous amount of mental tribulation, especially in developing nations1. Since the COVID-19 outbreak has been declared as a public health crisis, many countries across the South Asian region reported a sharp increase in suicide cases. For instance, suicide cases in Thailand, Singapore, and Nepal have surged tremendously during the outbreak of COVID-19. Thailand health officials revealed that 2,551 suicide cases were reported in the first half of 2020, which is a 22% increment from the same period in 20192. In parallel, Singapore reported 452 suicides in 2020, the nation's highest number of cases since 2012, amid the isolation and psychological distress brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic3. Furthermore, in Nepal, the number of suicide cases increased by almost 25% compared with previous years amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, whereby 559 suicide incidents occurred every month4. In Malaysia, there has been a dramatic upsurge in suicide cases since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020. According to recent statistics by the Royal Malaysian Police Department, a total of 631 suicide cases were recorded in 2020 and 468 cases were reported between January to May 20215. Compared to the year 2019, suicide cases in Malaysia almost doubled on average in all age categories in the 5 months of 2021 that is 94 cases per month compared to 51 cases per month in 20195. The increased psychological distress and poor mental health status amidst COVID-19 supports the escalating suicide mortality subjectively. Hence, this unexpected pandemic situation demands a comprehensive framework for tackling the massive upsurge of suicide among people from developing countries. In line with that, the aim of this viewpoint is to revisit the efforts implemented by the current Malaysian government and propose several prevention strategies to combat suicide during this global health crisis.