Sarawak Teen’s Suicide After Instagram Poll Gets International Attention, Here’s What You Need to Know

On Monday (May 13), 16-year-old Davia Emilia jumped to her death from a third-floor apartment in Batu Kawa New Township, Kuching, New Sarawak Tribune reported.

The girl posted an Instagram Story earlier, a poll for her friends to decide if she lives or dies. On her profile @f.yu.wen, the Story wrote, “Really important. Help me choose~ [ D | L ].”

Source: Instagram

The “D” indicated death, “L” indicated life. The result showed an overwhelming 69% of her friends voted “D” while the remaining 31% voted “L”.

After returning from dinner at 8pm, her stepbrother found Davia dead. She was lying lifelessly on the tarmac with a pool of blood oozed out of her head under their rented unit.

Source: Astro Awani

Her body was sent to Sarawak General Hospital for a post-mortem. The police did not find any message left behind or foul play, thus Padawan police chief Supt Aidil Bolhassan had classified the case as sudden death.

Within days after Davia’s passing, the news of her death has made headlines all over the world. Reuters, The Sun UK, BBC, The New York Post, India Today, and many more have all featured the story, prompting conversations on youths’ mental health and its relation to social media.

FeedMe Malaysia has put together a list of 10 things you need to know about this incident. First, let’s understand what Davia was like as a person:

1. Her neighbour describes her as someone always with a book

Batu Kawa New Township, Kuching. Source: The Borneo Post

Davia was a Form Four student, whom a neighbour described her as someone “studious and hardly ever without a book in front of her whenever she sat at a coffee shop nearby.”

Her death came 10 days before Malaysia’s mid-year school holiday starts. Every high school student in the country needs to sit for a mandatory exam called SPM in Form Five, and Davia had more than a year ahead to prepare for it.

2. Davia came from a broken family

Astro Awani reported Davia’s depression is believed to have stemmed from her father’s departure from the family and remarried to a Vietnamese woman in Singapore. The city police chief, Aidil Bolhassan, said her father rarely came back to visit her.

As for her mother, she is an Indonesian who remarried to a man with a 15-year-old son.

Earlier that evening, Davia’s stepbrother asked if she wanted to join him for dinner but she refused.

3. Past social media posts indicated she suffered from depression

Source: Instagram

Aidil added that Davia had updated a Facebook post that read, “WANNA QUIT F****** LIFE I’M TIRED,” prior to the Instagram Story, Daily Mail reported.

The poll was posted on her Instagram around 3pm Monday and she sent out a heartfelt Wechat status to her friends written in Chinese later that day.

Davia’s cousin posted a new Instagram Story on her account after her death.

In a challenging and infuriating tone, the cousin wrote, “Just now you guys voted for ‘D’ and this happened… Happy now?”

4. MP and Minister Speak Out

Source: The Star

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq took the issue seriously as he expressed his grave concerns on youths’ mental health. The young Minister tweeted, “I am genuinely worried about the state of our Youth’s mental health.

“It’s a national issue which must be taken seriously. A national discussion must take place.

“I’m free at 5.30pm on Friday. Let’s dialogue at IIUM Econs Cafe.”

Source: The Star

Bukit Gelugor MP, Ramkarpal Singh, is appalled by Davia’s friends who voted “D” in the poll, asking rhetorically that if more people had encouraged her to “Live”, would she still be with us today.

“Would the girl still be alive today if the majority of netizens on her Instagram account discouraged her from taking her own life?

“Would she have heeded the advice of netizens to seek professional help had they done so?

“Did the encouragement of those netizens actually influence her decision to take her own life?,” Singh said, as reported by Malaysiakini.

He also urged Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to investigate Davia’s social media and find out what caused her to commit suicide, adding that efforts should also be in place to prevent future incidents.

5. MCMC says inciting a minor to commit suicide could be sentenced up to 20 years in jail

Source: Instagram

According to FMT, Malaysia’s multimedia regulatory body said those who encouraged Davia to take her own life could be charged under Section 305 of the Penal Code. The law stipulates that those who incite someone aged below 18 to commit suicide are on the wrong side of the law.

On their Facebook page, MCMC said offenders are liable to 20 years of jail and a fine.

The agency added that they have provided their technical support to the police and urged the public to report anyone susceptible to commit suicide to the police.

6. One in five Malaysian teens suffer from depression

In an October 2018’s report by The Star, a national survey revealed that a large portion of Malaysians age between 13 and 17 suffer from mental health problems.

One in five are suffering depression (18.3%), two in five anxiety (39.7%), and one in 10 suffering from stress (9.6%).

Besides, the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2017, conducted by the Health Ministry’s Institute for Public Health (IPH), found that half of the students participated in the survey were going through stress derived from exams and personal problems.

The sample size was 120,420 students. 29% reported to have family problems, 11% faced issues with friends, and 10% faced problems with their teachers.

7. Instagram says Davia’s poll result shows ‘L’ ended with 88%

Source: Instagram

Instagram reviewed Davia’s final poll result and found that “L” triumphed with 88% by the end of the 24-hour Story appearing period. But Aidil said the poll’s numbers may have changed after people started to find out about her death, Reuters reported.

Instagram’s head of communications in the Asia-Pacific, Wong Ching Yee said, “We have a deep responsibility to make sure people using Instagram feel safe and supported.

“As part of our own efforts, we urge everyone to use our reporting tools and to contact emergency services if they see any behaviour that puts people’s safety at risk.”

8. Instagram has a system in place to hide and remove self-harming posts

The Sun UK reported that Instagram introduced “sensitivity screens” to block self-harm imagery on the platform in February.

Molly Russell. Source: The Sun UK

The filtering feature came after the death of Brit teenager Molly Russell, 14, whom her parents believed their daughter decided to take her life after being influenced by suicide and self-harm photos found on the platform.

Russell committed suicide in 2017 after handing in her homework and left behind a note that reads, “I’m sorry. I did this because of me.”

BBC reported that Instagram has a system in place to identify “self-harm thoughts” and would remove such posts while offering appropriate support.

For example, when you search “suicide” on the platform, a notice would pop up that guides users to “Get Support” or “See Posts Anyway”.

9. Well-wishers flood Davia’s Instagram

Davia’s profile has 53 posts in total and her latest photo has garnered 700 likes and 3,000 comments at the time of writing. Her usual posts have an average of 30 likes.

In the post, it features a pink sky and thousands of netizens wished Davia rest in peace and expressed their disbelief that a beautiful teen like her would take her own life.

However, there are still a small group of people making derogatory comments.

Other than the comments that came flooding into her posts since the incident, Davia had little to no friends interacted with her on her profile.

Source: Instagram

In the 53 posts, we see her often posted pictures of herself in school, particularly with her basketball buddies. She also often posted pictures of sneakers and animes, where some of them were believed to have sketched by her.

10. Netizens argue that nobody knew what “D” and “L” were supposed to mean

Source: Daily Monitor

Netizens from different part of the world have pointed out that if they were in the situation, they would not know what Davia was trying to say with a poll that labelled “D” and “L”.

Some said the common saying is “life-and-dead” while others retaliated that it could be “dead-or-alive”.

Source: Twitter

Some netizens said “D” and “L” could stand for the game titles’ initials that are famous among teens, DOTA or LOL. Others also said “D” and “L” could just be the initials of Davia’s crushes and argued that her friends must have picked the initial they liked the most.

It is in the consensus among the group that accusing “D” voters as inciters or murders is too much of a stretch.

Source: Twitter


We will pray for Davia and may you rest in peace. 

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Do you think Instagram should have better features to better safeguard teen users? Or do you think the government needs to work extra harder to stop the prevalence of mental illness among adolescents? 

Let us know your thoughts in the comment below.

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