The deaths of a new mother and her infant daughter at a HDB block in Fajar Road last November were found to have been part of a “deliberate act of suicide”, a Coroner’s Court heard on Tuesday (9 May).
Koh Suan Ping, 29, had held on to her two-month-old daughter Jaelyn when she leapt from her 12th-floor unit on 23 November 2016 with “clear intent that they would die together”, said State Coroner (SC) Marvin Bay while delivering his findings.
Both were pronounced dead at the foot of the block at 6.58am and 6.54am, respectively. Her husband had not been aware of what happened until police officers showed up at his home.
Mounting anxiety, ominous message
The coroner’s inquiry found that Koh had appeared to be “generally well” throughout her pregnancy but, following Jaelyn’s birth, had faced mounting anxiety over her impending return to work and stress over needing to find a new domestic helper.
The sales manager was also concerned over the performance of her company and, in seeking to clear her work backlog, had voluntarily reduced her maternity leave period to two months instead of her taking up her full four-month entitlement.
According to testimonies from her husband and two colleagues, Koh was also upset about being unable to produce enough breast milk to feed her child.
SC Bay also noted how the Web history of Koh’s smartphone showed that she had looked up “What to do when there is no way out” in Chinese on 19 November 2016, just days before she died.
Koh had “avoided projecting her true emotional state, but her escalating stresses (were) evident in the messages that she had sent to her colleagues and confidants,” he said.
‘Toll on working mothers’
In his closing statements, SC Bay said that the “truly tragic circumstances” of the case highlight the “reality of post-partum depression” as well as the “toll imposed on working mothers” who have to juggle their childcare duties with taking care of their homes and meeting their professional career responsibilities.
He added that family members are the “first line of defence” when it comes to a new mother’s mental and emotional health, and encouraged employers to acknowledge the needs of working mothers with new babies while taking steps to ease their burden by “providing better work-life balance, flexible working conditions, and affordable, quality childcare”.