The stress and anxiety of living in the time of COVID-19 takes its toll on everybody. Even the most stoic and stable adults can succumb to the pressures of pandemic-related uncertainties. Unfortunately, the mental anguish may be affecting the Singaporean family in more ways than we initially thought.
Understandably, adults may feel like the brunt of the mental and emotional stress of the pandemic is on their shoulders. It’s a period of ambiguous readjustment that can cause a terrible strain on their mental wellbeing.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the youth are readjusting too. Their lives have also been completely and utterly interrupted by COVID-19 as well.
And in a recent address, Singapore’s Education Minister, Chan Sung Sing reminded us just how important it is to build a more caring society for the sake of our nation’s youth.
How the Pandemic Affects the Mental Health of Singapore’s Youth
The youth, especially adolescents, are particularly vulnerable to the disruptions caused by COVID-19. They’re at a fragile stage of mental and social development which the lockdowns have undoubtedly ruined. From school closures and lack of social interactions with their peers, to the sudden halt of essential extracurricular activities, these disruptions can have a long-lasting effect not just on their immediate mental and emotional wellbeing, but on their growth as individuals as well.
The pandemic is also affecting the mental health of younger children as well. Students around the age of 6-12 years old also experience drastic changes in routines and a lot of missed life milestones that can cause some significant long-lasting trauma. The effects young Singaporeans can vary. Some can suffer from mild anxiety, stress, and even depression which can be resolved via self-care. In a significant number of cases, Singaporean youths turn to self-harm that could possibly lead to suicide. To give context, the suicide rates in Singapore rose by about 7% across the board in 2020. Singapore’s mental health specialists are hoping that this does not become a trend caused by the pandemic.
Luckily, Singaporeans are slowly starting to take action.
What’s Being Done Right Now to Help Children Develop Resilience
Some have already been well underway to help the youth through mental health crises even before the pandemic hit. The Please Stay Movement that mums of kids that took their own lives started, for example, has been providing much needed awareness campaigns, aid, and guidance to at-risk youth.
The Singapore government, on the other hand, is showing promising signs as well under the guidance of the Education Minister. The refreshed Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum for secondary schools in 2021 will give more emphasis on mental wellness. The revamped program aims to supply children with coping strategies that they can use when faced with the pressures of being a student and of growing up in society altogether.
Schools are also doing their part in keeping their students resilient. Some of them have already begun to identify and train peer leaders who can serve as the first line of support for at-risk students. The program can potentially help students open up with ease about their state of mind because they can share it with a peer instead of an authority figure like a teacher or a psychiatrist.
There is an obvious common factor in all these initiatives. They’re all building towards a more involved and caring society. And if young Singaporeans are to thrive within and beyond this pandemic, it’s imperative that we start building it now.
Psychologist-Approved Ways We Can Help Build a More Caring Society for Singapore’s Youth
While civic movements, educational institutions, and the government are making good progress in helping our youth cope with the pandemic, the effort should not stop there. The responsibility of creating a more involved and caring society lies primarily in the hands of parents and guardians.
Children usually learn resilience by example. This means that parents and guardians must be able take of their own mental health. From there, young Singaporeans can create a template for how they can take care of themselves.
This is especially important now because the pandemic has forced us to spend more time at home. Children are more exposed to how adults work and take care of themselves. It’s important, therefore, that self-care is integrated into everyday living.
Furthermore, adults suffering from mental health disorders have a tendency to let their negative emotions out on children. Without a healthy way of coping with their stress and anxiety, they may be unwittingly exposing or may even be causing the mental trauma to the children in their family.
With a healthy mental state, adults will not only be able to teach self-care more effectively, we will also be able to keep ourselves from being the source of mental trauma for our nation’s youth.
Be the source of stability.
It can be difficult to be a beacon of stability during a crisis like a pandemic. But this is exactly what adults must do.
The pandemic has forced the cessation of almost everything that the youth held dear. Socializing and learning had by replaced by the uncertainty of whether there another round of circuit breaker lockdown is going to happen in the coming days.
It’s important, therefore, to introduce some semblance of stability, permanence, and certainty in their lives. This could come in the form of providing a safe way to socialize with kids in their social circles or creating a healthy routine while in lockdown.
Acknowledge that young people are suffering too.
One of the first steps to solving a problem is admitting that the problem exists in the first place. In this case, we must acknowledge that children might be struggling with their mental wellness too because of the pandemic.
It’s important to check in regularly and observe for signs of mental illness. Doing so just might convince kids to open up and
Another important step we could take is to teach the difference between regular stress and pressure that is created by an underlying mental health disorder.
The Education Ministry’s shift to a more mental health-oriented approach to education is a welcome initiative. Now, with a little support from adults, Singapore’s kids will be alright.
Where to look for help
Sometimes, it’s difficult to know exactly the right thing to say to your child when they’re feeling mentally unwell. If this is the case, Singaporeans are fortunate to have the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) – a non-profit mental health services over the phone for emergency cases. They provide 24-hour suicide prevention services for free.
They also provide a separate referral system if there is someone who you think might benefit from a check-in with a psychotherapist, psychologist, or counsellor.
Or, you can also choose to visit Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic for a consult to talk with one of our resident psychologists, psychiatrists, and counsellors who specialize in certain areas of the mental health profession. We have clinicians equipped to carry out, child counselling, depression treatment, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, hypnotherapy, and art therapy.
Samaritans of Singapore
Contact number: +65 18002214444
Address: 10 Cantonment Close #01-01, Singapore 080010
Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic
Contact number: +65 62509833