Let children feel safe to talk about their feelings

The news of the tragic suicide of K-pop star Kim Jong Hyun has deeply affected many young people around the world (27-year-old lead singer of K-pop act SHINee dies; Dec 19).

As a psychotherapist, I am disappointed by the lack of discussion in the media about what leads to people feeling that their only option is to kill themselves, and how we as a society can help them.

I understand that there is a fear of suicide contagion, but by not discussing this, we contribute to the stigmatisation of mental health issues and the shame of those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts.

When an idol takes his own life, his devoted fans can be driven to do the same or harm themselves.

At this time, it is important for parents to be aware of any mood changes in their children, especially if they are fans of K-pop.

Parents and educators should encourage children to talk openly about their pain.

Children should never be mocked or dismissed for idolising a celebrity or reacting emotionally to his death.

If we are to prevent copycat suicides, we must create an environment where children are comfortable talking about their feelings and where those feelings are acknowledged.

As a nation, we need to get more comfortable with discussions about mental health.

Evonne Lek Woon Ing (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2017, with the headline 'Let children feel safe to talk about their feelings'. Print Edition | Subscribe