More youth seeking help for mental health issues
Even as number of young people asking for help grows, IMH says challenge is to engage males and young working adults
She was picked on by classmates in junior college (JC) and was also a victim of cyber bullying.
Alone and isolated, Alicia (not her real name) started feeling suicidal in her first year of JC but did not feel ready to seek professional help.
She told The New Paper: "It got to a point where for a whole week, I pretended to have lost my voice so that I would not have to speak to anyone, and there were two weeks where I just would not eat."
Her parents did not know she had a condition, and Alicia, who is now 26 and works in the mental health industry, said she would turn to online forums, posting about her struggles in the hope that someone who had been through the same experience would be able to help her.
Her post attracted the attention of a youth social worker from the Community Health Assessment Team (Chat), who referred her to a hospital for help.
Chat is the youth outreach arm of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) that caters to those aged between 16 and 30.
It offers free, personalised and confidential mental health checks on an appointment basis.
The youth social workers at Chat can refer a young person for help at various places, including IMH, a restructured hospital or a family service centre for counselling and support.
Alicia is one of the many young people that Chat has been able to support since it started a decade ago.
At a media briefing yesterday, Chat revealed that it is seeing more young people here seek help for mental health challenges.
Dr Charmaine Tang, its deputy programme director and a consultant at IMH, said that last year, around 1,700 young people approached Chat, up from 1,580 in 2017 and just 50 when it started a decade ago.
Chat highlighted a 2016 study that found that one in five of those aged 18 to 34 had experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime.
However, Dr Tang noted that while overall numbers of people getting help is on the rise, it remains a challenge to engage specific groups of youth, including young working adults and males.
She shared that the data collected over the past decade showed 75 per cent of self-referrals came from female clients, even though the prevalence of mental health disorders is higher in males.
According to Samaritans of Singapore's 2019 statistics, suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 29, with males accounting for more than 71 per cent of all suicides last year.
In 2018 alone, 397 lives were lost to suicide.
The number of teenage boys taking their own lives reached a record high here last year. Nineteen boys aged 10 to 19 committed suicide, the most since suicide figures began being recorded in 1991.
Ms Lee Yi Ping, senior youth support worker and team leader at Chat, said there are specific challenges in engaging the two groups, and Chat is working on resources and approaches to increase and expand the outreach to such groups.
From her experience, she has found that males, in general, find it more difficult to talk about their emotions and are less likely to seek help.
On Wednesday, a coroner's report on the suicide of 18-year-old full-time national serviceman Muhammad Ahad Lone two months after his enlistment recommended the appointment of trained mental health professionals to all Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) camps.
The report suggested a review of SCDF's structure and protocols to better deal with the mental health needs of its servicemen.
To reach out to at-risk youth, Chat has a series of services, including an online service where they can seek help anonymously without having to make a face-to-face appointment.
To mark its 10th year of service, Chat will be holding a carnival tomorrow at *Scape from 1pm to 7pm, where it will launch its latest outreach tool, a card game titled Lemonade that aims to help facilitate conversations about mental health.
In the meantime, those who wish to contact Chat can call 6493-6500/6501 or drop by the Chat Hub at *Scape (#05-05).