Yet another young life lost to suicide

By Kevin Ong

My neighbour took his life yesterday. A 15 or 16 year old boy, handsome. He lived on the floor above me. As I was having dinner, I heard a human cry / scream, and then the sound of ceramics shattering. I thought a pot of plants had dropped. I went out unknowingly for a foot massage, and saw the hole in the roof, the police cordon tape, and the dark pool of blood on the grey cement floor. I learnt that he had gone up to the highest floor, jumped, and crashed through the tiled roof of our covered walkway. They say he still had a pulse when they found him, and that the paramedics handled him like a child inside a cracked egg shell.

I went to the funeral this evening. Christian, with a Bible in front of the coffin. White plastic chairs at the void deck. His sister offered me a packet drink. His mother looked calm enough. But I did not feel able to ask anyone why it happened. As saddened as I was at the loss of such a young life, I was heartened to see many of our neighbours in the donors' list. A man from the opposite block who wrote his name in sprawling Chinese characters. A woman with a Muslim name from three floors up. I do not know any of them, but I recognised the familiar block and unit numbers.

I had seen a plain-clothed man taking photos of the scene in the aftermath; was he from the police or press? In any case, what happened was not reported anywhere. I learnt that it happens almost every day on our beloved island, often more than once a day. And that for each time it happens, many more would have tried. The world would not know of my young neighbour's plight, not even on a slow news day. Within a day, there was no trace left at the scene - the debris cleared, the roof repaired. I walk past that spot every day, so does the boy's family. The cement floor was hacked and refilled. They must have figured out by now that human blood on bare concrete does not come off easily.

Those closest to me will know I am a secular-minded person. How I feel about organized religion oscillates between curious fascination, detached amusement and eye-rolling disdain. But tonight, I will pray. For the boy and his family. For the migrant workers who poked around the broken roof with their broomsticks in the aftermath for loose tiles which might fall on people. And for there to be less judgment in our communities of people sharing their difficulties. That we will stop seeing vulnerability as weakness or failure. That we do not insist, on others and ourselves, a public facade of happiness as a condition of respect. So that those among us who can empathise may have an opportunity to affirm, encourage and hopefully, save.

This first appeared as a post on the Facebook wall of Mr Kevin Ong on 11 January 2017. Do join in the discussion over there if you have thoughts to share.


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