MOE and MSF stress that resources are available for youths at risk
MOE, MSF highlight their support and help for youth at risk after rise in suicides
For many teenagers facing emotional or mental distress, a listening ear can go a long way in helping them.
A senior principal social worker with 22 years of experience recalled a case where she managed to get a victim of molest to open up.
Ms Yogeswari Munisamy told The New Paper: "I remember a girl who was harming herself quite extensively but in places that were hidden.
"It was only after I managed to build a stronger therapeutic relationship that she spoke about the hidden cuts."
The girl was in distress as she had been repeatedly molested by her stepfather, said Ms Yogeswari, who is with the Child Protective Service, Rehabilitation and Protection Group, Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
In her work, she has encountered boys and girls who displayed signs of self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
And the rising number of youngsters taking their own lives has raised concern.
Last year, 19 boys aged 10 to 19 committed suicide, the highest since records began in 1991. While suicide by teenage girls dropped to three, a five-year low, the combined total of 22 is almost double the 12 in 2017.
To address this concern, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and MSF yesterday highlighted the measures and systems in place in schools and the community to support the emotional and mental well-being of students and at-risk individuals.
The agencies said in a press release: "MSF and MOE take a multi-pronged approach to support the emotional and mental well-being of students and individuals at risk of suicide.
"We work closely with agencies such as Ministry of Health, Ministry of Home Affairs, Institute of Mental Health, Health Promotion Board, and National Council of Social Service, and with community partners such as the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS).
"The objective is to build psychological resilience in the youth, raise awareness on mental health issues, identify and support those at risk of suicide, and intervene in crisis situations where urgent help is needed."
Ms Yogeswari added that ensuring collaboration across agencies and the community and family network can only serve to strengthen the social infrastructure for vulnerable young people.
Ms Lisa Lee, lead school counsellor, Guidance Branch, Student Development Curriculum Division in MOE, said: "Based on my experiences as a school counsellor, students commonly struggle with expectations and relationship issues related to family and peers.
"When faced with issues, boys generally internalise their thoughts and feelings while girls may more readily reach out and share with their peers or significant adults such as parents, teachers, school counsellor."
Taking into account factors such as the sex and background of each child allows them to develop interventions and support specific to the needs of each child, said MOE and MSF.
Ms Clarissa Koh, year head for upper secondary and officer-in-charge for peer support at Fairfield Methodist Secondary, told TNP that having strong peer support networks is also essential.
Ms Koh said that many youngsters are under high levels of stress not just from school and school work but also social, mental and cyber pressures.
She said: "Peer support helps kids in terms of awareness and allows them to feel supported by their peers. Some children might not choose to reach out, which is why it helps to have their peers be looking out for signs of distress.
"They might also feel more at ease talking to peers than to a teacher. They might feel less shy."
A peer leader at Fairfield Secondary, Jeremy Tan, 16, said that the peer leader training sessions at school had taught him useful skills.
"One of my friends was going through some issues at home. He was left out by his peers and I could tell he was depressed, and he was having weird thoughts of self- harm.
"The skills we learnt helped me to identify that he was distressed, and I could reach out to help him."
Jeremy added that it is important to empower students with such skills so that they can spot and identify when their friends might be having problems because they have the most interaction with their peers.
MOE said: "In schools, the well-being of our students is closely monitored and timely support is given to students in distress.
"Every school has a trained counsellor to support students with social, emotional and mental health issues.
"Teachers seek to build positive relationships with their students and look out for those displaying signs of distress."
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Institute of Mental Health’s
Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788
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