The old stigma associated with mental health in Singapore seems to be losing its power— at least with the younger set of citizens. According to Channel News Asia, mental health experts are seeing encouraging signs. More children ages five and up are beginning to seek help when they encounter bullying, family trouble, relationship problems, or depression in Singapore.
A Steady Rise in Calls for Help
The increase in children seeking help has been gradual but steady. In 2016, a suicide prevention group in Singapore received around 1,900 calls from children between the ages of 5 and 19. In 2012, that number was much lower. The 70 percent increase is due in part to awareness campaigns aimed at squelching the stigma of mental illness. One helpline saw a 50 percent increase in calls from primary school students during the same period, 2012-2016.
Life Questions from Struggling Kids
Of course, since the callers are children, some of the questions were silly or simplistic. Others were practical, asking about how to make new friends or how to overcome loneliness. Some children revealed the pain going on in their lives due to parents divorcing or bullying issues. No matter what the subject matter, the children were reaching out, asking for help instead of sinking under the weight of their emotions and their situation.
Mental Health Initiatives from the Ministry of Education
As encouraging as the statistics may be, experts have to face other trends that are much more deadly, including the recent increase in suicides among Singapore’s young people. The incidents have prompted the Ministry of Education (MOE) to take action with a selection of new initiatives.
One strategy is the inclusion of peer support networks in every Singapore school, with a target completion date in 2019. By that year, the MOE hopes to have effective peer support in place at each school, so that kids can find someone close to their age to talk to if they are struggling. The peer supporters will be taught when to simply be there as a friend and when to report self-harm or serious depression to a teacher.
Limitations of Peer Support
Peer support can only go so far. After all, burdening a young person with another child’s severe mental health issues can have a negative impact on the healthy child. Teens and children do not always have the emotional maturity to handle a situation correctly, no matter how much training they receive. One child psychologist in Singapore, Associate Professor Daniel Fung, suggests that the trained students should merely act as observers, relaying news of mental problems to teachers. “Class sizes may be large, and teachers may miss some problems; so this helps to give an additional set of eyes,” he explains.
The Role of the Parents and the Psychologist in Singapore
As a parent, encourage your child to reach out to you, to a teacher, or to a trusted friend anytime. If your child or teen shows signs of growing mental distress, consider bringing him or her to Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic for an evaluation. A trained child psychologist will speak with your child and recommend therapy or other treatment to address any issues.
News Feed from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic
Source: Channel NewsAsia, 26 Sept 2017