Challenges faced by disadvantaged youth

It is true that people are born with different "starting points" and that being privileged gives one a head start (Pushing back on privilege and meritocracy; Dec 23, 2017).

I came from a dysfunctional family, with a gambling addict mother and a mentally ill father.

Although I did not starve, I lacked a role model.

When I was a child, my father would often grumble to me when he was slighted at work. He also had negative views and perceptions of society.

When I was in junior college, he lost his job and refused to find a new one.

I was uncertain if I could complete my studies. I went through a stressful period and developed mental health issues, particularly anxiety, and had difficulty focusing.

When I was in the National University of Singapore, I had no financial support from my family and constantly worried about paying my tuition fees.

I graduated from university in mid-2009 with $30,000 of study debts. Lacking guidance in career planning, I struggled with lowly paid contract jobs and found it hard to repay my huge study debts. At one time, I took on three jobs just to stay afloat.

This exacerbated my mental health.

I graduated in mid-2009 with $30,000 of study debts.

Lacking guidance in career planning, I struggled with lowly paid contract jobs and found it hard to repay my huge study debts.

At one time, I took on three jobs just to stay afloat.

Luckily, my situation turned around in 2011, when the foreign manpower policy was tightened.

However, the companies I worked for did not care about the mental health of their staff.

I hope that sharing my experience will raise awareness of the struggles children and young people from low-income families face.

I hope people will come to know of this other side of Singapore and influence policy changes to help the less privileged.

Liu Rijing

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2018, with the headline 'Challenges faced by disadvantaged youth'. Print Edition | Subscribe