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New guide for parents to help their kids manage mental health

Parents looking for tips on managing their children’s mental health can now turn to a guide on how to help their kids cope with stress, anxiety and social media addiction, among other issues.

MindForward Alliance, a global not-for-profit organisation that promotes mental health in the workplace, launched its Singapore chapter on Wednesday with a free guide for parents on caring for their children’s mental health.

The 44-page guide was put together by MindForward Alliance Singapore and one of its nine founding members, Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore, drawing on the knowledge of social service practitioners, mental health professionals. The other founding members include Goldman Sachs and HSBC Singapore.

The guide includes knowing what to look out for, when and how to get specialist help, among other practical advice.

It comes on the back of 2021 figures from the Samaritans of Singapore, which showed that the number of suicides among children and youth aged 10 to 29 years old had hit a record high since the start of the millennium.

Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling, who was guest of honour at Wednesday’s launch event, said the parents’ guide would help with workplace mental health as happy children mean happy parents and employees.

She added that leadership styles have changed due to flexible work arrangements during the pandemic, and leaders must learn to trust, inspire and care for employees.

Ms Laure de Panafieu, co-chair of MindForward Alliance Singapore and partner at multinational law firm Linklaters, said: “What I realised with one foot in Europe and one foot in Asia, is that in Asia, the stigma around mental health is deeper, both at home and at work.

“So it’s even more important that we equip leaders so that they are prepared and ready to share and just be vulnerable and brave so that they create safe spaces for others.”

Mr Kenneth Choo, co-chair of MindForward Alliance Singapore and managing director of Heineken Asia Pacific, said managers can start the ball rolling by showing vulnerability – for instance, about feeling nervous about a presentation - and encourage employees to also speak up about their fears about being judged or making mistakes.

“Employees need to feel that it’s ok to share their fears, that they’re not alone in feeling that way. Once you start to talk about the fear, it actually goes away and that will provide psychological safety in the workplace.”

He said the corporates that are members of the MindForward Alliance can take the lead in promoting workplace mental health, benchmarking areas of mental health management and awareness, and developing best practices or validating their strengths.

The guide for parents includes schemes these companies have to support parents, such as hybrid work arrangements, meetings capped at 15 people, and having no meetings during lunchtime.

Clinical psychologist Carol Balhetchet said working parents have been overwhelmed during the pandemic, and find it harder to maintain a work-life separation as they work from home. 

They should make it a point to spend structured time with their kids regularly – be it talking or enjoying a movie together – as the children need their attention to ensure good mental health and development, she said.

Companies could allow parents to go home an hour early once a month to spend time with their kids, she suggested.

Administrator executive Joline Chue, 53, has a son and daughter, aged 19 and 23, who are stressed from deadlines and exams in the final year of polytechnic and the penultimate year of university.

She makes sure to check in on them, ensure they get enough rest and have time to unwind with music and sports, as well as to be with family and friends.

She said the guide will help her and other parents to understand the mental health issues her children are facing so she can better help them.

The guide can be found at https://mindforwardalliance.org.sg/parents-guide-to-mental-health-in-chi...

Mental HealthparentingSUN XUELING