Teach teens it's normal to feel down sometimes

Teenagers are more vulnerable than adults to having suicidal ideations, as the development of their brains is still a work in progress ("Teen suicides 'highest in 15 years but overall rate falls'"; July 26).

To help them ride through the stresses of life, parents, teachers and authority figures must teach them certain things.

One cannot be happy and upbeat all the time. Being upset or depressed from time to time is normal and is part of the growing-up process.

However, if one's depression intensifies or continues unabated, it is an indicator that one needs serious help.

Parents and teachers need to help teenagers understand that counselling assistance is useful and can help them cope better with stress.

Sometimes, teenagers engage in addictive behaviours - smoking, drinking, taking drugs, video gaming and self-harming - to deal with emotional pain and disturbance. These are indicators that something is deeply wrong.

When feeling emotionally disturbed, teenagers need to ask themselves:

- Are they criticising themselves for being depressed?

- Are they able to accept their feelings and seek help?

- Do they know what they want, and what behaviours will enable them to get what they want?

This self-evaluation and thinking is crucial to getting out of a depressed mood.

To remain resilient and keep depression at bay, teenagers need to have four types of health - physical, mental, spiritual and relational.

Ultimately, we have to decide what we want in our lives, then choose the behaviour to get us what we want.

This requires self-awareness, an acceptance that we need help and a commitment to strengthen our physical, mental, spiritual and relational health.

We need to teach teenagers how to do this.

Kuharajahsingam Karalasingam

HELPLINES

Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

Institute of Mental Health's Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222

Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800