Awareness about depression reduces stigma

The increasing incidences of depression in youth is indeed a growing concern (An escape room to learn about depression; Jan 9).

The number of young people aged 10 to 19 who called a hotline asking for help with their mental health problems more than doubled from 244 in 2014 to 550 in 2015.

The suicide rate for youth under 19 has also risen in recent years due to mental health challenges and stress experienced in schools, at home and in relationships.

The escape room initiative from the National Youth Council and Campus PSY to increase awareness of depression is commendable.

The Singapore Association for Mental Health has been addressing youth mental health issues for many years.

YouthReach, a programme employing a personalised family-centred model for psycho-social interventions, since 2006 has worked with children and youth who have been identified with emotional or psychological issues.

YouthReach engages these young people in psycho-social activities, including sports like badminton and bowling, and outings, which are aimed at promoting their physical and social well-being.

About two-thirds of youth referred to the programme in the past five years had moderate to severe symptoms of depression.

One young person who was deemed at risk of depression and who was very shy and reclusive initially has become more communicative and confident after attending our sports programmes regularly.

Another youth in his early 20s said the fitness and badminton sessions were less intimidating and more enjoyable "for someone like himself, who is not sporty".

He struggles with depression and anxiety, but has now found new purpose and confidence to pursue his dreams in his relationship and job.

We applaud the escape room and similar initiatives aimed at raising awareness among the public about depression.

Not only do such initiatives give comfort to those affected by depression, they also provide a platform for them to talk about their feelings and seek help.

Greater awareness and discussion about depression and other forms of mental illness will certainly help to reduce the stigmatisation of people with mental health issues.

Tan Li Li (Ms)
Executive Director Singapore Association for Mental Health