According to statistics provided by the World Health Organisation (2021), more than 700,000 people take their lives annually around the world, with many more remaining undocumented. Many of these cases are made up of the Elderly demographic while a large proportion of these numbers, come from the Youth and Young Adults population. Accordingly, among 15 to 19 year-olds, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death. Unsurprisingly, 77% of suicides world-wide happen in low and middle-income countries.

The numbers for 2021 are not yet in, but in 2020, Singapore reported 452 suicides, reflecting an increase of 13% in comparison to 400 suicides reported in 2019. This number has been the highest in 8 years. Among the youths and young adults, aged 10 to 29, suicide rates increased 7% from 2019, while the age group of 30 to 59 years saw a similar increase of 7%. Among the Elderly third, those aged 60 and above, 2020 saw 154 recorded deaths by suicide, a shocking 26% increase from 2019. In 2019, the Samaritans of Singapore received 4,816 calls for help, while in 2020, only 4,455 calls for help were received. (Samaritans of Singapore, 2021). The implications of these statistics are worrying. More people are attempting to take their lives, while fewer people are reaching out and calling out for help.

While the reasons for suicide are multitudinous – loss of job and income, debt, illness, loneliness, peer pressure, stress and so forth, depression is a major contributing factor. A survey conducted by the Institute of Mental Health (2020) found that 8.7% of the surveyed Singapore population met the medical criteria for Clinical Depression, while another 9.4% of the surveyed population met the criteria for anxiety. 9.3% of the population surveyed revealed duress from mild to severe and acute stress. To extrapolate the numbers, 8.7% of a 7 million strong population equates to about 609,000 people who may be classified medically as Clinically Depressed.

We seem to be living in a world with very little joy and cheer.

Yet Jesus, came into this world and became man. As the Giver of Joy, the birth of Jesus heralds a new era of redemption where the joy that has been stolen away from us by the evil one, is restored in full. We are forgiven and we are ransomed from a debt that we ourselves cannot pay. Yet, how many of us fix our eyes on Jesus when the thorns spring up and the storms rag around us? For an Easter people, we seem to be very sombre and dour.

Henri Nouwen (June 1) has spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on the topic of joy. He writes that the essence of the spiritual life is joy. Without joy, our reflections and contemplation on and of God – what we think, what we say, cannot bear fruit. We can only experience true joy when we are convicted of the truth that we are unconditionally loved, as we are with our imperfections and shortcomings. This means that even in failure, sickness, emotional distress, oppression, the atrocities of war, death, we remain secure in the refuge and the promises of the Lord, knowing that all these things cannot take away God’s faithful love for us.

At the same time, Nouwen (June 1) is cognizant of how happiness is not the same as joy. While we may be unhappy about many things that our life circumstances throw at us, there may be still a deep joy within us that keeps us hopeful. This joy stems from a firm surety and knowledge that God loves us and that God will provide for us in everything that we need. Nonetheless, we would need to make the daily choice of choosing to be joyful in all things.

As Nouwen (November 11), states:

“To choose joy does not mean to choose happy feelings or an artificial atmosphere of hilarity. But it does mean the determination to let whatever [that] takes place bring us one step closer to the God of life.” (Para. 1)

Pope Francis (2016) has also reflected extensively on the topic of Christian joy. There should be a sense of astonishment and wonderment that is found in a Christian’s life, for a Christian without joy cannot be a Christian. For a Christian, in spite of the facing of life’s difficult circumstances, he or she can trust in Jesus and hope in Him, knowing that He never abandons us. This joy is not a superficial emotion, but is rooted in the truth of Christ’s resurrection. The implications are these. The reason for a Christian to Hope is seen in the triumph of life over death. The story of Christianity would have ended if there were no resurrection, yet Jesus conquered even death. This tells that in reality, nothing is impossible for God. God can bring back to life what was dead. Today, what needs to be revived by this Christian joy and hopefulness, is the human heart that has been so calloused, jaded, and wounded by the earthly burdens, trials, and tribulations that a person may encounter. As Christians, we have a special call to be channels of this indescribable hope and joy.

According to Pope Francis (2016),

“The Christian identity card is joy, the Gospel’s joy, the joy of having been chosen by Jesus, saved by Jesus, regenerated by Jesus; the joy of that hope that Jesus is waiting for us, the joy that – even with the crosses and sufferings we bear in this life – is expressed in another way, which is peace in the certainty that Jesus accompanies us, is with us… The Christian grows in joy through trusting in God. God always remembers his covenant… the Christian knows that God remembers him, that God loves him, that God accompanies him, that God is waiting for him. And this is joy.” (Para. 6-7)

What are some ways that we can nurture and flourish the gift of Joy from the Holy Spirit?

  1. Have speedy recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this sacrament, we meet Jesus face to face, and are washed cleaned from the stains that prevent us from seeing God in His Truth. The Sacrament of Reconciliation removes the veil of shame, and allows us to be restored in our dignity and identity as daughters and son of God. Pope Francis reflects that :

“One does not go to confession as chastised people who must humble themselves, but as children who run to receive the Father’s embrace. And the Father lifts us up in every situation, He forgives our every sin. Hear this well: God always forgives! Do you understand? God always forgives!” One is not going to a judge to settle accounts, but “to Jesus who loves me and heals me” (Tornielli, 2021, Para. 5)

  1. Find ways to celebrate in healthy ways and as grounded in scripture, the small victories in life.
  2. Joy bears fruit when it is evangelised and given to others. Share your faith story. Someone needs to hear your testimony.
  3. Help someone in need in secret. Like the Good Samaritan, our fulfilment comes when we become doers of the Word of God, and when we go forth to love others as God loves us.
  4. Seek God in all things. God is to be found in quiet and stillness, in a flower, a bee, in the homeless and the poor.
  5. Centre our lives on the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source and the summit of the Christian life. Without Jesus we cannot do anything. The Eucharist also fills us with the grace to conquer our battles.
  6. Practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
  7. Have a daily list of thanksgiving where we write down three things that we were grateful for in the day and where we saw the fingerprints of God.

As Pope Francis (2013) says, “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.” (Para. 1) Christ is the reason for our joy, and we are ambassadors of this joy. We must bring the light of this joy to all corners of the earth. What are some ways that you can bring joy to others?


By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



Institute of Mental Health. (2020). COVID-19 Mental Wellness Taskforce Report. [Dataset] Retrieved December 11, 2021 from

Nouwen, H. (June 1). Joy. Henri Nouwen Society. Retrieved December 11, 2021 from

Nouwen, H. (November 11). Choosing Joy. Henri Nouwen Society. Retrieved December 11, 2021 from

Pope Francis. (2013). Evangelii Gaudium. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Pope Francis. (2016). Pope Francis: The identity card of the Christian is the joy of the Gospel. America the Jesuit Review. Retrieved December 11, 2021 from

Samaritans of Singapore. (2021). Singapore Reported 452 suicide deaths in 2020, number of Elderly Suicide Deaths Highest Recorded since 1991. Samaritans of Singapore. Retrieved December 11, 2021 from

Tornielli, A. (2021). A new outlook on confession, the sacrament of joy. Vatican News. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from

World Health Organisation. (2021). Suicide Key Facts. World Health Organisation. Retrieved December 11, 2021 from