Wednesday, April 19, 2006


April 19, 2006
JC student kills himself, convinced his private parts were too small
Suicide highlights importance of sex education in schools, says coroner
By Stephanie Yap

HE WAS a second-year student at a top junior college, a member of the school volleyball team, a 'cheerful and energetic' boy who was doing well enough in his studies to take Special Papers.

Yet on March 3 this year, the 18-year-old jumped to his death from a Bedok housing block, because he was convinced his private parts were too small.

Delivering a verdict of suicide yesterday, State Coroner Tan Boon Heng was sufficiently concerned by this 'tragedy of misinformation' to recommend that the case be forwarded to the Ministry of Education (MOE).

'The importance of sex education to our young people in schools cannot be over- emphasised,' he wrote.

'The case study is useful for relevant MOE officers to appreciate the problem of the severity of misinformation even among the best and brightest in our schools.'

The boy, who cannot be named, had confided in his mother in October last year that he was worried his private parts were too small.

She took him to a neighbourhood clinic, where the doctor told him his penis was of a normal size for an Asian man, and prescribed him multivitamins.

Despite strong emotional support from his girlfriend and his mother, he remained convinced he had a problem. He also had a history of being stressed over schoolwork.

In January this year, he told his mother that his life was 'boring and meaningless' and that the only thing stopping him from suicide was his family's love.

On March 3, after his usual volleyball practice, he took a bus from school to the Bedok interchange, but did not take his usual connecting bus home. When his sister sent him a text message at around 7pm to ask if he was coming home for dinner, he replied that he would eat out.

The next and final message she received from him was at 8pm, telling her and their mother to take care.

They realised something was wrong, but he repeatedly failed to answer his phone.

He jumped from a housing block near the Bedok bus interchange at around 8.30pm.

He was semi-conscious when he was taken to Changi General Hospital, but was pronounced dead at 10.40pm from multiple injuries.

In his suicide note, written in a notebook he had bought 40 minutes before his death, he apologised to his girlfriend and his family for killing himself.

'He said it was not due to the stress of his examination, but it was more about his physical development...He still knew there was something wrong with his body parts,' the investigation report said.

In his judgment, State Coroner Tan said the boy's death showed that even intelligent young people can be victims of misinformation.

'While we are the beneficiaries of this Internet age that hails an era of information and knowledge enriching our lives, the less-informed also become victims to junk information and worse, untruths,' he said.

'The deceased was so tormented by his unfounded (belief in his) inadequacy that it drove him to end his life.'

The case highlighted the importance of sexuality education, both in and out of school, he said.

'It may have helped if the deceased had the benefit of counselling now widely available. If parents are aware of their children being tormented in this way, they should seek professional help lest such tragic deaths should happen again.'

Sex education, usually termed sexuality education, usually takes the form of a short series of lessons.

One secondary school teacher with five years' experience told The Straits Times that at his school, sex education covers three periods a week for three weeks.

Students write reflection logs on topics like boy-girl relationships, different levels of intimacy, as well as legal issues.

However, he said teaching students how to be comfortable with their physical and sexual development is not in the syllabus.

'But this is something that should be looked into because it is definitely part of the students' development,' he said.

Guess there's something wrong with a child's education if he / she kills him/ her self over a matter as trivial as a "small body part". What would cause a kid to go to such extreme measures because of all this? It seems to boggle the mind.

But then again, it's pretty telling when there are students who believe that because they're struck in the jewels by a water bomb, they are permanently damaged and suddenly emasculated. Who tells them these lies? Well...Not us, say the teachers.

Parents. Peers. Privates?

I have to make a confession. When I heard about this story being in the Straits Times, the mocking / uncontrollable laughter began and did not stop for 30 minutes. It's a tragedy akin to a man who falls into a vat of hot rubber and is removed with a perfect full body condom moulded onto him. Or a person who slips and falls on a banana peel and gets hit by a truck carrying rubber chickens. Black comedy at its best. It's Schadenfreude.

I mean let's put aside the indignity of committing suicide over the little things (sorry...) instead of "grander" notions of love (dumb reason), studies (dumber reason) and the fact that you have cancer and you really want to shape your death your way (relatively acceptable reason). Why the heck would your own mother ensure that you suffer (posthumously) the indignity of being known as the boy who died because he felt his penis wasn't large enough? The confidant was the national press...And this would be where I would simply defer to the use of acronyms: OMGWTFGG...Why would you tell the national press that THAT was why your kid killed himself? *Smacks forehead* I mean, imagine the consequences:

  1. The unfortunate girlfriend was probably hit with a deluge of SMSes that read: "Was he really that small?
  2. No one would be able to keep a straight face when eulogising the poor boy. "Yes, he was a brilliant student who worked hard and kept his eye on the big picture...but at the same time, he was also concerned about the little things in life..."
I'm going to make it official. If I ever kill myself over something as trivial as that, the official reason would be this:

"I am tired of the lies of the world. The hypocrisy and the stupidity of mankind and I seek a higher plane of existance. I wish to cut away my mortal / moral coil and free myself from suffering in this flawed and uncompassionate world."

Which sounds better than:

"I have erectile insecurities. There's no reason to live."

All that said, I blame porn and the neverending stream of junk e-mails that tout an increase in size of certain unnamed body parts. Meds. Enlargers. Herbs. Bleagh. Lies that make kids believe that they have to have penises that hang halfway down their thighs before being able to function sexually: Porn without parental supervision. (Then again, porn women have breasts like watermelons and that's a whole other over-expectation that you porn-addicts will have to learn to live with. And lest ye women decide to go get implants, note: gravity works and watermelons that look good now will be watermelons that hang down to your knees in 20 years time...) Meanwhile I suspect that I'm going to have to craft a lesson on how it's totally unnatural to be hung like a horse and that it's not the size that matters, but what you do with it. I can just imagine it:

/me whips out 15cm ruler.
"Now just try not to laugh..."


Blogger  said...

i was actually quite offended by the headlines. i mean, someone took his own life, and the media made a mockery out of it?

Thu Apr 20, 06:33:00 pm 2006  
Blogger Packrat said...

Agreed...even for the Straits Times it was out of line.

Fri Apr 21, 08:25:00 am 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wish you would be more respectful towards the dead. imagine if someone you knew took his own life. how would you feel if others wrote about it the way you wrote about johnathon?

Sun Apr 23, 11:19:00 pm 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well you're a man of twice johnathon's age. to you it may seem trivial and senseless, but to him it may not. even so, things have already happened. and since you are of such a high level of maturity as you've proclaimed to be, i'm sure you are mature enough not to speculate and have a minimal respect for the dead. if you feel that he caused his parents to have the indignity of being known as "the parents of the boy who died because he felt his penis wasn't large enough", then kindly not make his parents' life more miserable. you shouldn't even be blogging this entry, especially more so when you are a teacher, who is supposed to be compassionate and caring for students instead of mocking at them. you don't mock at students when they have a misconception or when they make mistakes, do you? well if you do, then maybe you're not suitable to be a teacher.

Sun Apr 23, 11:33:00 pm 2006  
Blogger Packrat said...

I'm not even going to address the allegations unless you learn to argue properly.

And please don't name names. I've specifically kept names out of the posts to protect the dead. I think that's respectful right?

Mon Apr 24, 10:39:00 am 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i certaninly agree with packrat.

there is no need to create a mountain out of a molehill.

Tue Apr 25, 07:29:00 pm 2006  

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