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Suicidal Thoughts and Behavior of Chinese Youth in Kuala Lumpur City

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The ideology and term of suicide or killing oneself to get out of life is turning into a trend in this modern society. Most of the ones that expresses the idea meant it as a joke and do not mean to actually conduct a self-harm activity. Many memes and jokes regarding killing themselves because they’ve succumb to a difficult task, seeing something ‘stupid that it hurts their brains’ and even merely wanting to get out of life can be seen on Facebook, 9Gag, Twitter and other social medias. However, this piece focuses on actual suicide ideation and behaviour, specifically the youths in the Chinese population in the city of Kuala Lumpur. It is being defined by the United Nations that ‘youths’ ranges age between 15 and 24. Hence, only this particular group is to be discussed. This study aims to investigate the thoughts and behaviours among the Chinese youths that resides in Kuala Lumpur and finding what motivates these individuals to have suicide ideation and what are the subtle traits of suicidal behaviours. This may help to identify the level of risk of certain individuals that might actually perform self-harm tasks.

It is no shock that suicide cases are a major cause of death in many countries. Many research has been conducted in the United States and Europe, but not many research has been done in Asia. The volume of research does not reflect the distribution of suicide globally, with Asia accounting for up to 60% of all suicides (C.J Armitage, M. Panagioti, W.A. Rahim, R. Rowe, & R.C.O’Connor, 2015). Same findings were manifested according to the article written by X.Y Foo and M.N. Mohm. Alwi. 60% of all suicides comes from the continent with the largest population and affects 60 million people a year (X.Y Foo, M.N.M. Alwi, S.I.F. Ismail, N. Ibrahim, & Z.J. Osman, 2012). It is not a surprise that South Korea and Japan has an alarming rate of suicide cases. In South Korea, suicide method such as bridge jumping is really common and this is usually taken place at the Mapo Bridge. The bridge also earned its nickname, 'Suicide Bridge', as it is frequently used by people to commit suicide. In Japan, there is the infamous 'Suicide Forest', where many goes there for the purpose for ending their lives. It is suggested that dead bodies are possibly easily found in the forest in the infamous and controversial vlog by Logan Paul that was posted in January 2018. It does not take long for the crew to spot a corpse that was hanging by a tree. The video was taken down shortly after due to sensitive graphic. Fortunately, there are no solid evidence of infamous places for suicide in Malaysia. In Malaysia, it was reported that 16.2% of all suicide cases in the year 2009 were among those aged 15 to 24 years (N.A Ahmad, S.M. Cheong, N. Ibrahim, & A. Rosman, 2014).

Suicidal behaviour and ideation is a growing cause for concern as suicide rates have increased by 60% over the past 45 years (S. Aishvarya, T. Maniam, H. Sidi, & T.P.S. Oei, 2014). X.Y. Foo and M.N.M. Alwi’s 2012 paper suggests that there are some significance of suicidal ideation from different ethnic groups. Religion and race may have some significance in these suicidal ideation and attempts. It is stated that the discrepancies in ethnic ratios and the shift in suicide trend may imply that other than individual factors, sociocultural factors may play a role in the difference in suicidal behaviours across ethnic groups (X.Y Foo, M.N.M. Alwi, S.I.F. Ismail, N. Ibrahim, & Z.J. Osman, 2012).

Not only these aspects play a role but the idea accepting suicide significantly affects the suicidal behaviour as well. Individuals who endorse suicide are more likely to develop suicidal ideation and behaviours (Zemaitene & Zaborskis, 2005, as cited in X.Y Foo, M.N.M. Alwi, S.I.F. Ismail, N. Ibrahim, & Z.J. Osman, 2012). Their finding suggests that their acceptance towards killing oneself may potentially put them at risk of acting on it as well. It is also believed that media exposure could be a motivating factor. For example, celebrity suicides. Well known celebrities that ended their lives are Robin Williams (comedian and actor), Chester Bennington (lead singer, Linkin Park), Kim Jong-hyun (K-pop singer, Shinee), Kate Spade (designer), Anthony Bourdain (celebrity chef), Leslie Cheung (Hong Kong singer and actor), and many more. A research has been made regarding experiencing suicide ideation of being influenced by a Leslie Cheung’s death. 38% (767) of 2,016 people responded and about 43.4% (460/1061) of women and 32.1% (307/955) had been influenced (K.W Fu, P.S.F. Yip, 2007). A recent similar study published in 2018 investigates expected number of suicide during the month of Robin Williams’s death. Reports have shown that there were excess of approximately 1,841 suicides in the United States from August to December 2017 compared to what would be expected (D.S. Fink, J.S Tenorio, K.M. Keyes, 2018). These suicides are potentially known as ‘copycat suicides’ or has been long described as ‘Werther Effect’, named after a 1774 novel by Johan Wolfgang von Goethe. It is also suggested that there is no current studies validated this possibility of the long-term effects of celebrity suicide on suicide ideation (K.W Fu, P.S.F. Yip, 2007). There were no study on how this has affected the Malaysian population.

H.D. Maharajh and P.S. Abdool did a research on cultural aspects of suicide. In their study, they seek to investigate the effects of culture on suicide. They discuss that suicidal behaviours may be linked to certain cultures or geographical region. For example, they mentioned that it is acceptable to commit suicide for the Japanese if one is humiliated. They mentioned that culture-bound syndromes have abnormal behaviour patterns and these behaviours express core cultural themes and have a wide range of symbolic meanings such as social, moral and psychological (S. Dein 1997 as quoted in H.D. Maharajh & P.S. Abdool). They state that the incidence of suicide in Malaysia is relatively low, 49% of all suicides were ethnic Indians who constituted only 8% of the Malaysian population, 38% suicide rates were among Chinese who formed 26% of the population and 3.6% were Malay that represented 59% of the population. However this finding is relatively old as they were extracted from a 1997 journal article by Nadesan. The later findings was conducted by the National Suicide Registry Malaysia in 2018. NSRM (2018) revealed that Chinese compromised the largest group of suicide cases (53.5%), followed by the Indians(27.3%) and Malays (13.9%), although the ratio of ethnic population in the country remained consistent (X.Y Foo, M.N.M. Alwi, S.I.F. Ismail, N. Ibrahim, & Z.J. Osman, 2012). It is also worth noting that the NSRM data relies on medically-certified suicides that approximately 50% of all deaths in Malaysia are not medically certified (C.J Armitage, M. Panagioti, W.A. Rahim, R. Rowe, & R.C.O’Connor, 2015). J.K. Kok, C.C. Gan, and L.Y. Goh conducted a survey in 2011. A total of 270 youths aged 15 - 24 were sampled from different schools, colleges and hospitals in West Malaysia. It was found that the Chinese expresses school work as the main cause for suicide.

Suicidologist Adan Omar, who is the head of the Counselling and Psychological Service Centre of Taylor’s University believes that the suicide trend among the young in Malaysia is getting more serious, and is fast catching up with Japan that has a rate of above 30 per 100,000 people (Wong, 2011 as cited in J.K. Kok, C.C. Gan, & L.Y. Goh, 2011). They also mentioned that at least 60 people plan to suicide everyday. A survey was conducted and it was revealed that the ‘at-risk’ individuals are female of Chinese and Indian ethnicity, and from broken families (N.A Ahmad, S.M Cheong, N. Ibrahim, and A. Rosman, 2014). The survey also found that suicide ideation was significantly higher among individuals with mental problems, abuse, and substance usage. Mental problems, particularly depression, being bullied, and family violence are associated in suicide ideation are found in various studies. Reasons for suicidal behaviour included depression, wanting to relieve themselves of pain or discomfort or problems related to substance abuse (S. Aishvarya, T. Maniam, H. Sidi, & T.P.S. Oei, 2014). In addition, there are two major risk factors that are highlighted: poor coping mechanism for the stresses of school life and the lack of a program to promote good mental health in the country. Young people nowadays are growing up in an increasingly competitive, globalised society, insecurity and risk taking are some of the characteristics of postmodern globalisation. (J.K. Kok, C.C. Gan, & L.Y. Goh, 2011).

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Traditional Chinese families tend to emphasise and value the importance of education. Many Malaysian Chinese parents expect academic achievements from their children. Most Chinese students holds the concept of filial piety towards their parents and therefore not wanting to disappoint their parents. Thus, ultimately most Chinese stated that school work to be the contributing factor that leads to suicide. Other possible causes for suicide for the young were boy-girl relationships and family issues. Findings show that boy-girl relationships ranked the highest for the possible reasons for suicide for both male and female students. According to Durkheim’s suicide theory which depicted male as always more vulnerable and their risk of suicide is considerably higher. The findings seem to confirm that Durkheim’s postulation as the male students are more emotionally vulnerable, as most of them cited a broken relationship as a reason for suicide (J.K. Kok, C.C. Gan, & L.Y. Goh, 2011).

It is essential to note that Malaysian Chinese tend to be unhappy. There are two phenomenon that affects the negativity among the Chinese’s happiness. First, they face more economic advancement although they are the biggest taxpayers among other ethnic group in Malaysia. Second, due to unequal privileges, Malaysian Chinese are forced to cope with hectic working life in order to adapt to the high cost living. It is found that Malaysian Chinese women tend to have unhappier feelings (Y.K. Cheah & C.F. Tang, 2013 ). Thus, data shows that young female have a higher tendency of inflicting self-harm (C.J Armitage, M. Panagioti, W.A. Rahim, R. Rowe, & R.C.O’Connor, 2015). This may be due to the gender role inequality in the community as they hold the housewife concept. Malaysian Chinese women are expected to handle household activities despite being fully employed. In contrast, young men are more likely to die by suicide. The data shows that men contributed 60% - 76% of suicide (C.J Armitage, M. Panagioti, W.A. Rahim, R. Rowe, & R.C.O’Connor, 2015).

Suicide methods that are commonly used in Malaysia are hanging, poisoning, jumping from heights and drowning. Hanging is most commonly used in Kuala Lumpur. The construction of high-rise buildings may have contributed to the increasing number of commiting suicide by jumping from height (C.J Armitage, M. Panagioti, W.A. Rahim, R. Rowe, & R.C.O’Connor, 2015). Between the year 2000 and 2005 showed that hanging was the primary suicide method for both gender, followed by jumping from height and firearm for young male, and poisoning by drugs and jumping from height for females. The methods used subjects to the availability (K Kõlves, D.D Leo, 2016). Firearm in Malaysia is not available. Thus, hanging and jumping from height is the more prefered method in Kuala Lumpur.

Suicide ideation manifests in many youths today and sometimes even committing to it. It is needed to study why are these youths so unhappy. One theory suggests that it could possibly be connected to the relationship and closeness to the parents. Past studies suggests that lack of closeness with their parents is linked to suicidal thoughts. Therefore, maintaining a close relationship with parents is crucial to prevent suicidal thoughts among adolescents (S.L. Wu & S.N. Yaacob, 2017). Other theories may suggest that these youngsters may not have their definition of ‘meaning of life’, this a study was conducted in questioning these youths ‘what is the meaning of life’.

270 participants throughout urbanised Peninsular Malaysia were recruited by purposive sampling. A qualitative data was collected from the question “If you can choose, how would you live, in order to make life meaningful?” (J.K. Kok, L.Y Goh, and C.C Gan 2014). ‘Happiness’ receives the most votes, consisting of 108 voters, followed by ‘Goals and Values Orientated’ 106 voters, which has a small gap to the ‘Happiness’, and lastly ‘No Meaning’, having only 9 votes. The findings suggests that many Malaysian youths in Malaysia found meaning in life, or at least fighting to pursue for a happier life.

Although suicide ideation and behaviours may be invisible, it is important to raise awareness regarding this issue and eliminate these social stigmas in order to have these youths to visit a counsellor or psychiatrist for help. Therefore, this will aid in deleting suicide ideation not turning into completed suicide.

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Suicidal Thoughts and Behavior of Chinese Youth in Kuala Lumpur City. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 29, 2023, from
“Suicidal Thoughts and Behavior of Chinese Youth in Kuala Lumpur City.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Suicidal Thoughts and Behavior of Chinese Youth in Kuala Lumpur City. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2023].
Suicidal Thoughts and Behavior of Chinese Youth in Kuala Lumpur City [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Nov 29]. Available from:
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