04:45 AM Nov 22, 2011
SINGAPORE - The recent spate of deaths at Bedok Reservoir illustrates the phenomenon of copycat suicides, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament yesterday, as he sought to put into perspective the incidents that occurred in the last few months.
"People who are depressed, that is the root to the problem ... We do not have the highest suicide rate, in fact, given our ethnic composition and our location as a nation, we are doing quite well," said Dr Balakrishnan, who did not provide figures.
Dr Balakrishnan was previously Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports.
Dr Balakrishnan, who is the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, was responding to a question from Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Lina Chiam on what additional measures - apart from beefing up security and putting up warning signs - were being taken by national water agency PUB in the light of the recent spate of deaths in Bedok Reservoir.
According to Dr Balakrishnan, the PUB will put up signs in the area providing information on helplines for those who are depressed.
"We certainly intensified all our measures to prevent these sort of untoward accidents - we reviewed the safety parameters, we increased patrols, we increased lights, we put up more signs," he said.
Noting that investigations into some of the deaths are still in progress, Dr Balakrishnan reiterated that a multi-pronged approach is needed to tackle the issue and it would involve society, including family members and the community.
He said: "This is a problem that goes beyond our reservoirs. In fact, it illustrates that there is this phenomenon called copycat suicides and, since I came from MCYS in the past, we know that there are other preferred modes of suicide which have been influenced by media coverage and the way it is portrayed to the public."
Dr Balakrishnan added that he felt the media has been "responsible" in their reporting of the recent deaths and the coverage has been "toned down" after the first few cases.
Responding to Mrs Chiam's concerns on the water quality, Dr Balakrishnan said the standard operating procedure to treat water did not need to be changed after the incidents.
Before the water from the reservoirs reaches public taps, it is filtered and chemically disinfected to a standard well within the World Health Organization's Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality, Dr Balakrishnan said. He added that the treatment process rids the water of bacteria, such as those from decaying organic matter found naturally in the reservoirs' ecosystems. The treated water is also tested daily and is safe to drink, he said.
Source: TODAYonline | Singapore | Bedok Reservoir deaths reflect copycat behaviour: Balakrishnan