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It took her three suicide attempts to find her reason to live


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She was only 10 when she tried to hang herself three times. Thankfully, she failed.

She was just 10 years old when she tried to kill herself. Ally (not her real name) was facing several monsters at the time. Bullies were taunting her in school. She faced family pressures at home, and battled feelings of loneliness and a cripplingly low self-esteem. 

It was a normal school day when she decided to tie a rope around her neck and tied the other end to her bathroom pipe, hoping to escape the troubles of life.

"I contemplated between jumping and hanging, but chose hanging because there's less blood involved," Ally recalled.

Her attempt that day failed after the bathroom pipe broke. Ally's mum saw her leaving the bathroom with rope burn marks on her daughter's neck.

"I felt bad for my mum. She was already dealing with her own problems, and I mean like…what else do you say to your 10-year-old daughter who's trying to hang herself?" recalled Ally, now 19.

Her mother was an English teacher and the sole breadwinner of the family. Her father was unemployed, and like her elder brother, distant from the family.

Ally often felt like she was the one holding the family together. She recalled regularly seeing her mother returning home from work tired and worn out after a long day of teaching. Her father remained unemployed and the family faced financial difficulties.

At school, Ally felt ostracised from her schoolmates. They laughed at her for being overweight and refused to sit with her during recess.

"I felt lonely. I could not fit in with my classmates, and my home situation was not good either. I just felt really helpless," Ally admitted.

That emotional stress, as well as the stress of helping her mother keep the family together, drove her to attempt suicide for the first time in 2007. It was to be the first of three attempts that year. 

Ally is not the only one to have attempted suicide at a tender age of 10, although she was fortunate to have failed in her attempts. The Samaritans of Singapore reported in July that 27 youths, aged between 10 and 19, ended their lives last year. 

But just as quickly as family problems drove her to attempt suicide, family became Ally's reason to live.

After her failed suicide attempts, Ally's turning point came when she realised that things would be worse for her family, especially her mother, if she was not around.

Ally shared a close relationship with her mother. They attended Sunday Mass at church regularly and had heart to heart talks where they would share everything with each other.

Ally has not been to the park since her mother's death

Ally said: "If I left, everything would be four or five times harder for my mother, who would have to deal with my father and have no one to share her troubles with, I couldn't leave her like that."

Her longing to help her mother keep the family together helped her pull through. Although the problems at home did not improve in her secondary school days, Ally learnt to cope through writing.

Through poetry and writing, she expresses what she truly feels.

Ally, who refused to seek professional or medical help after her suicide attempts, explained: "Words don't judge...I don't want to have to hide the ugly parts of my problems that I'm not comfortable with."

This form of escape helped her get through the stressful 'O' level exams, when she also struggled with an eating disorder and depression .

One of the flowers her mother introduced Ally to

A year ago, Ally's mother died suddenly.

"Surprisingly, I'm not as suicidal as I though I'd be, considering the person closest to me passed away," Ally said.

She added, with a chuckle: "A logical part of me is saying that if I commit suicide and my mother sees me in heaven, she might scold me."

She also found another reason to continue living - to take care of her ageing grandmother.

one of Ally's favourite spots

Ally hopes to one day be able to live for herself.

But for now, she feels it is her duty to bridge the growing emotional distance between her father and brother, who do not talk much to each other, and to be her grandmother's companion. She also feels the need to continue the legacy her mother left behind.

"My mother put in so much effort into this family to support us, to keep us together. I couldn't just leave it all behind…my loyalty lies with my mother," Ally said.

She added: "I just need to find that one reason to push on through this mess, and stay strong for." 

This is part two of a series on teenage suicide in Singapore. Also in this series:

High expectations made her try to kill herself