Ask a friend, "How are you?" world suicide prevention day (Photo © Les Tan/Red Sports)

“How are you?” (Photo © Les Tan/Red Sports)

In August 2016, two teenagers committed suicide in Singapore.

One of them was a student-athlete.

I had taken photos of him in action twice – once when he was in Secondary 2, and when he was in his second year of junior college.

I looked again at the last photo I took of him.

It showed him crossing the finishing line in full flight, his face in ecstasy. In the stands, 13,000 spectators witnessed his win.

The story my crew mate wrote quoted him. It is probably the only public record of his words.

I did not know him personally. My younger crew mate did. In Singapore, more than two people aged 10 to 19 committed suicide every month in 2015. However, having taken his photograph, his death is not merely a statistic to me anymore. I see his face, and he has a name.

I am used to watching teenagers run, jump, and throw. This is their age of growing speed, endurance, and power. They are filled to overflow with life, laughter, and love.

Not death.

His untimely passing made me pause.

Perhaps we should all pause from time to time, a pause long enough to ask our children and our spouses, our friends and our schoolmates, not just the usual questions around homework and grades, work and money, houses and holidays, but “How are you feeling?”, “What have you been thinking about?”

Or just, “How are you?”

And may we then have the patience of love to wait for an answer, and the kindness to just listen.

Samaritans of Singapore
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N.B. The photo above is NOT of the athlete who committed suicide. His name and photo are not used in this article.