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Reasons for committing suicide in Malaysia society

Nurul Atikah bt. Azmi (1018156)

Nurul Huda Mamat (1021608)

Aliah Amirah binti Saiful Bahari (1120496)

Nur Faizura binti Iskandar (1121686)

Afifah Yaakob (1128758)

Department of Psychology

Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences (KIRKHS)

International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)

Cross Cultural Psychology

PSYC 4080 Section 2

Dr. Nadjet Aknouche

Semester 2, 2013/ 2014

17th April 2014


Reasons for committing suicide in Malaysia society

Suicide is reported to be one of the ten leading causes of death in the world (World Health

Organization, 2014). Suicide is defined as “the act or an instance of taking one's own life

voluntarily and intentionally especially by a person of years of discretion and of sound mind”

(, 2014, no page no.). This abominable act is done based on the reason

when someone does no longer have the need or hopes to continue living. Most importantly,

suicide is done intentionally though the individual who engage in the suicidal attempts may

or may not think or be aware of the consequences proceeded.

In Malaysia, suicide is no longer a new issue neither a settled one. Despite Malaysia is

not ranked among the top countries in the world with high rates of suicide cases, yet the

statistics have shown that 16 out of 100 000 of its total population had been reported to

commit suicide (Kadar bunuh diri membimbangkan [Suicidal rates are worrisome], n.d.). The

number is equivalent to one case reported in every 40 seconds, which consequently brings to

the fore the significance of studying the reasons for committing suicide in the Malaysian

society. The national statistic has shown that the ratio of suicidal behaviour of men to women

is 3:1, with the Chinese recorded the highest rate of suicide at 48%, followed by Indian

(21%), Malay (18%), and other ethnic groups (13%) (Sipalan, 2012). This is supported by

another study which shows that the Chinese appeared to have the highest risk of engaging in

attempted suicide (Chan, Maniam & Shamsul, 2011).

However, these statistics somehow contradict the findings by Aishvarya, Maniam,

Hatta and Oei (2014) in which the rates of suicide and attempted suicides are the highest

among the Indians community, followed by the Chinese. To add, Maniam, Lim, Kadir,

Abqariah, Nurashikin, Salina, Sarfraz, Toh, Fauziah, Faudzi and Karuthan (2011) highlighted

that Indians also recorded the highest rate of suicide ideation. Interestingly, these particular

findings are unexpected as they are not consistent with the former studies which initially

reported that Chinese have the highest risk of suicidal behaviour.

In addition, there have been many studies conducted on the factors leading to suicide

globally. According to Vijayakumar, Nagaraj and John (2004), some of the reasons for

people committing suicide are physical abuse, marital status, economic hardship, easy access

to the means of committing suicide like pesticides and any others. In Malaysia, past studies

have shown that the incidence and patterns of suicide are determined by cultural, religious,

social and even political factors (Tsoi & Kok ,1980). Interestingly, a more recent study by

Nor and Abdul (2008) also reported the same in which sociological, economic and cultural

factors play an important role in the risk of committing suicide. Other factors contributing to

the attempt of suicide include psychiatric condition, genetic and family background, life

events and terminal illness (Nur & Abdul, 2008). From the findings of the previous studies, it

can be seen that the reasons for committing suicide worldwide and in the Malaysia society

result from various different factors.

Based on the facts presented, it can be concluded that suicide is indeed a worrying

issue not only in Malaysia but also worldwide, with various different factors and reasons

which trigger the action. Hence, the question that arises is: “What are the differences in the

reasons for committing suicide in the Malaysian society?”. Further attention is given

emphasis particularly to the major three ethnic groups in Malaysia, which are Malay,

Chinese, and Indian. This study was therefore conducted with the purpose to identify the

reasons for committing suicide in the Malaysian society and to compare these suicide patterns

among the three ethnic groups.




For the library research, the participants included those identified people reported in the

newspapers who have committed suicide. For the interview, one Malay female respondent

was identified to have attempted committing suicide and was chosen as the interviewee.


Newspapers from either print or electronic media were used in this research study. The

newspapers included those of the past news report on suicidal attempts in the Malaysian

society. Besides, a template paper of several questions (Refer to Appendix A) was also used

for the interview, and a personal diary and a pen were used to record the respondent’s

answers on the interview questions.


The research design for this study is mainly the library research. This library research was

conducted by systematically examining the news reports from the earlier newspapers. The

research focus was given to the mentioned major three ethnic groups in Malaysia. The reports

from earlier newspaper were searched and gathered from the library archival news as well as

from the internet search engines. These reports were further examined and important points

were extracted pertaining to the reasons for committing suicide in the three ethnic groups.

Another research resign used in this study was survey, particularly interview. The

interview was conducted through face-to-face on a potentially identified respondent who has

been reported to have engaged in suicidal attempts. At first, two respondents were identified

to have committed suicide as the potential interviewees for this study. Out of these two

respondents, only one agreed and gave consent to be interviewed. The interview was

conducted for around one hour and 30 minutes with several questions pertaining to the

respondent’s experiences and reasons for committing suicide.


Suicide in the Chinese Community

Based on the library research, the findings indicate that incidents of suicide were very

prevalent among the Chinese young adults, with the highest number of cases reported in the

range of ages between 21 to 30 years old (Alphonsus, 2012).

The main reason identified for committing suicide in the Chinese community is due to

emotional distress. For example, Alviss Kong aged 22 years old committed suicide due to

emotional distress caused by the breakup with his girlfriend (Suicide: The Alviss Kong story,

2010). Another case was in 2013, a Chinese youth known as Lim jumped off from the fifth

floor of the campus building whose mother claimed that her son committed suicide because

of pressure in his study (Ai, Ng, & Raman, 2013).

Other than young people (15-30 years old), those who are in the range of ages

between 50 to 75 years old also face the risk of committing suicide (Yesuiah, 2012). In one

case, Hiew Yook Cheng, 49 and his wife Wong Yin Tinn, 37 were charged for the attempt to

commit suicide together with their daughter for the husband was believed to have been

depressed as a result of financial problems (Dituduh bunuh anak [Accused of killing child],

2013). Another similar case of financial problems is Lim Wei Keong, 39 years old who was

found dead in his car with the engine still open and the exhaust was being closed by a pipe

(Muhaamad, 2014). The victim was believed to have faced threats from the loan shark which

was the result of his gambling addiction.


Therefore, it can be concluded that among the factors that contribute to suicidal

attempts in the Chinese community is emotional distress in which relationship problem,

financial problem, and pressure in study as the triggers.

Suicide in the Indian Community

Looking into the Indian community in Malaysia, the suicidal cases among this

ethnicity might differ in some aspects. However, before drawing a comparison of

suicidal cases among Malaysian dominant ethnic groups, it is better to examine few cases

which attracted attention in the past few years.

In one case reported in 2010, an Indian couple killed their mentally retarded son

before committing suicide (Pasangan India bunuh diri [Indian couple committed suicide],

2010). There were many rumors pertaining to the reasons for their act of killing their own

son, as well reasons for their suicidal act following it. As reported by Ians (2010), the toddler

was fed rat poison before the couple jumped from their condominium. This couple who felt

despondent over their son being mentally retarded was reported to be the reason for them to

commit suicide after killing their son (Despondency drove Indian couple to suicide, 2010).

Another case was reported in 2007, in which an Indian girl, Subashini aged 13 years old

committed suicide due to severe disappointment with her UPSR examination result (Murid

kecewa keputusan UPSR bunuh diri [Student disappointed with UPSR result committed

suicide], 2007). She was found hanged in her room.

In brief, as similar to the Chinese community, the findings on the Indian ethnic group

also show that the reason for committing suicide was depression that was due to despondency

and severe disappointment as the triggers.


Suicide in the Malay Community

From the library research, there were not many available sources on the suicide in the

Malay community that could be accessed from the archived news. Even if there were some,

yet the news did not report on the reasons for the Malay people committing suicide.

Fortunately from the interview conducted, the Malay female respondent reported to

have once engaged in suicide due to depression and severe feeling of sadness. This can be

indicated from her saying: “I just felt really depressed and sad”. Her suicidal attempt was a

result of feeling worthless as quoted from the participant said: “In my mind, the words that

came out from my mother’s mouth really hurt me badly and I felt like as if I was worthless”.

This was upon hearing her mother said she was an ungrateful child as quoted: “You’re rude

and ungrateful child.” The reason was because of her not being compliant to her mother’s

request for help: “She asked me to help her with my younger brother for she had to send my

sister to school (in the evening). I said to her that I just got back from school and I’m really

tired with the school activities.” Suddenly, her mother burst into anger, continue to say about

should have killed her since she was born which can be quoted: “If I knew, I will just kill you

since baby.” Upon hearing this, the respondent felt the overwhelming sadness and started to

think about killing herself as the participant said: “I started to imagine on how to kill myself

at that time but suddenly it just appeared to my mind to eat ‘Panadol’.” In this incident, the

respondent had consumed excessive pills, assuming that her death might lighten her mother’s

burden. This was said by the participant during the interview session: “I did hope that it

(Panadol) will help me to reduce my mum’s burden at that time.” Fortunately, she was

managed to be saved and is now leading her life in a much better way as indicated in the

interview session: “Alhamdulillah I can cope with my life now even.”

From the library research, it can be seen that there is a limited source that can be

found especially in media and newspapers regarding the reasons for committing suicide in the

Malay society. However, it can be assumed from the interview that one of the reasons for the

Malay people committing suicide is stress and depression.


As noted earlier, in Malaysia, the Chinese community heads the suicide list among the

other ethnic groups. Based on the findings through library research, available sources that

could be accessed from the archived news are mostly news reports on suicide in the Chinese

community, indicating that the number of suicide cases among its people is at the greatest

compared to Malays and Indians. Looking at the facts presented, the three ethnic groups show

the same pattern of the reason for committing suicide in their respective society. In this study,

it can be reasonably assumed that depression is the main reason for committing suicide in the

Malaysian society. Yet, the factors contributing to depression varied among the three ethnic


In the Chinese community, it was shown that emotional distress is what triggers the

depression which eventually leads its people to commit suicide. Among the factors of the

emotional distress as discussed earlier are relationship problems, financial problems and

pressure in study. An important point to be brought to light is that many researches have

shown that achievement-oriented upbringing is one of the contributors to suicide among the

Chinese people. This is because they give a great emphasis on the family interests. Therefore,

when they failed to do so and experience a loss of control over their lives and circumstances,

they are prone to fall into depression which may eventually lead to suicide if it is severe.

(Alphonsus, 2012). This is what can be seen when they encounter failures in relationship,

financial stability and study as reported earlier.

Looking deeply into the data, the Indians’ suicide is also as alarming as in the case of

the Chinese community as the number of suicidal attempts is increasing. Specifically, the

Indian couple who committed suicide after killing their mentally ill retarded son may be due

to their despair of being gifted with an abnormal child. In addition to their feeling of guilt

towards their abominable act, their belief in karma, that is “one’s deeds have corresponding

effects on the future” (Karma in Hinduism, 2007, no page no.), motivates them to commit

suicide as they presume they did not deserve to live after taking one’s life.

Last but not least, little sources are available on the suicide cases in the Malay ethnic

group, indicating that the number of suicide cases among its people is at the least compared

to Chinese and Indian. This can be justified with the Islamic religious beliefs upheld by the

Malays who are Muslims and Islam prohibits taking one’s life. To quote, one of the prophetic

traditions narrated by Abu Huraira states, "He who commits suicide by throttling shall keep

on throttling himself in the Hell Fire (forever) and he who commits suicide by stabbing

himself shall keep on stabbing himself in the Hell-Fire." (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23,

Number 446 as cited in Muhsin Khan, n.d., p. 308). This clearly shows that the Malays take

this suicide issue seriously by not engaging themselves in such accursed act. As such, in

relation to the protection of life prescribed in the Islamic syari’ah, the prohibition of

committing suicide apparently lessens the tendency of the Malay Muslims to take their own


In conclusion, there are many other cases of Malaysians committed suicide, however

they were under –reported and the suicide rate is on the rise. The findings of this study can

lead the researchers to conclude that these suicide cases are associated with depression. This

particular reason was found to be common across cultures in Malaysia but the ways of

committing suicide may be different from one case to another. However, there are some

limitations in this study that must be taken into account. One of the limitations in this study is

insufficient number of respondents for the interview. In addition, the unavailability to access

to the most recent exact statistics leads to inadequate data which causes the findings of the

study cannot be generalized into a wider prospect that is the whole population of the

Malaysian society. Therefore, this brief study will need to be replaced with a more

comprehensive, larger sample in the future research to follow for further insights into the

issue of suicide in Malaysia.



Appendix A


Name of interviewee : Not Available (Female)

Location : Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur
Date : 12 April 2014
Name of interviewer : Nur Faizura Binti Iskandar (014-9362748)

By using my personal diary and pen, I recorded some important details of the conversation
with her permission. In this transcribe, I indicate the name of interviewee as ‘Respondent’
and mine as ‘Researcher’. The interview session was conducted as followed:

General Information
Researcher : Assalamualaikum sister, it has been a long time since my family and I moved
out from here. How’s your life?
Respondent : Alhamdulillah my family and I are living well (smiling).
Researcher : Alhamdulillah. Alright, I would like to thank you for willingly giving your
cooperation to be interviewed. Without wasting any time, could you tell me a
bit about your background as an introduction?
Respondent : You’re welcome. Yes, sure. My name is (could not be mentioned here). I’m
25 years old and now working as a clerk in one of private company in Kuala
Lumpur. I have six siblings including me, and I’m the second one. I was born
In Hospital of Kuala Lumpur and now I am living with my parents.
Ermm..what else eh? Oh yes, my father’s name is Zailani, 55 years old was
retired from his work as a security guard three years ago while my mother’s
name is Mashitah, 50 years old is a housewife.
Researcher : Alright, I would like to ask more about your background but I’m afraid we
don’t have much time so I’ll proceed with what the next question, is it okay
for you?
Respondent : Yes, sure you can (smiling).
Researcher : Great then. Firstly, I was informed earlier that you had an experience of

suicidal attempt. Is it true? Would you mind sharing the story of what had
happened on that particular day?
Respondent : Yes it’s true. [Taking a deep breath before starting]. Actually it happened
when I was 13 years old if I’m not mistaken (she smiled and continued) and I
was not really in a straight mind during that time. I remember on that day I’d
just arrived at home from school and my mum scolded me for something that
I didn’t even understand. She asked me to help her with my younger brother
for she had to send my sister to school (in the evening). I said to her that I
just got back from school and I’m really tired with the school activities and
suddenly my mum burst out in anger and got really upset with it. She started
shouting and throwing things to me and she even slapped me and she said
that “You’re rude and ungrateful child. If I knew, I will just kill you since
baby”. Well, at that particular time I felt really disturbed with what she said
to me and I kept thinking for what my mother had said. ‘Is it true I’m an
ungrateful child? I’m rude? I should not be alive in this house?’. After that,
my mother also didn’t want to talk to me at all. At that night (late at night), I
went to the kitchen and saw a knife. I started to imagine on how to kill
myself at that time but suddenly it just appeared to my mind to eat ‘Panadol’.
[She silent for a while]
I did hope that it (Panadol) will help me to reduce my mum’s burden at that
time. So, I took out every kind of medicine in a food container and started to
eat each of them until I felt dizzy. I didn’t realize how much I’d eaten the
medicine but I could see in my hand there are 3 sachets (with different type
of medicines). While the Panadol, I have eat almost ten tablets of it.
Researcher : How did you feel at that particular time when you are doing that particular
Respondent : I just felt really depressed and sad. In my mind, the words that came out from
my mother’s mouth really hurt me badly and I felt like as if I was worthless. I
did think about my father, his feeling if I’m doing this but I couldn’t stop
thinking that I should not be born in this world. Whatever happened I must
die and with that people would be able live happily without me.
Researcher : How have you been saved from that incident? Did someone save you?
Respondent : Well, after that attempt, I went to bed and slept as usual but on the next day
when I woke up, I can see that each of my family member was gathering

around my bed. They said that I didn’t wake up even they had called for me
several times and they even tried to pinch me in the face but I didn’t respond
at all. They called a doctor and they knew that I had consumed too much
drug in my body. I had a headache and kept vomiting on the next day. It was
my family who saved me and after that incident I could see that my mum still
took care of me even she scolded me a lots after she heard my story.
Researcher : After that moment, how do you cope with life? areIs there any difficulties?
Respondent : Alhamdulillah after the incident I do realize that my mum does not actually
hate me or really meant for what she said, because woman sometimes did
feel emotional. As for me, I try to understand my mum more and be able to
become more rational before doing anything. Are there any difficulties? As
for me, Alhamdulillah I can cope with my life now even though there aren’t
lots of my friends knew about this story (she laughed).
Researchers : Alhamdulillah and I would like to congratulate you because you are able to
realize the consequences before it is too late and hope that everything you’d
done before will be forgiven by Allah SWT. Last but not least, what is your
hope in continuing the life and what is your expectation?
Respondent : Well, I do hope that I could be a good Muslimah and Mu’minah in the future.
For every bad deed that I’d done, I’m also hope that my parents forgive me
as well. I also do hope that my children will not follow my step in the future
because suicide is not a way to solve problem.
Researcher : Thank you for your cooperation and insya’Allah everything will be alright.
Respondent : Waalaikumussalam.

… End of Interview …


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