Forum: Need to destigmatise mental illness

Posed photo of a woman with depression.
Posed photo of a woman with depression.PHOTO: ST FILE

I refer to the commentary by Professor Chong Siow Ann (Let's talk about suicides among young people, Oct 5).

The world today is vastly different, with complex challenges such as the influence of social media and cyber bullying.

A book titled Bend Not Break, published by Brahm Centre three years ago, sheds light on the events that lead up to a teenager's suicide.

The teenager's mother, Madam May Chng, shared in an interview in The Sunday Times with senior writer Wong Kim Hoh that young people may think their pain ends when they end their life, but in reality, the pain is multiplied and intensified in the lives of many others who have to carry it for the rest of their lives (Driven by grief to help other teens, Aug 25).

A sudden end to a life is tragic, particularly so among the youth when they have yet to live out their dreams and aspirations, and also the dreams of their parents that their child will grow old with them.

The biggest obstacle to young people seeking help in troubled times is their sense of fear and, at the same time, anger at the world for their failings.

Sometimes, both they and their parents are concerned about having a mental illness record.

Many companies ask potential employees to declare past mental illness conditions; the same information is required in applications to universities, and applications for visas may also require such a declaration.

Brahm Centre initiated the AssistLine in August to create that safe space where the young and parents can share without being judged. We have since received more than 100 calls.

We are also organising a charity seminar, Understanding The Minds And Emotions Of Young People, on Nov 22 at the Raffles Institution Auditorium to share with parents how to detect the symptoms of depression and anxiety in teenagers, and the interventions available.

Last year, there were 397 suicides in Singapore, of which 94 of the victims were aged between 10 and 29.

We need to destigmatise mental illness and encourage people to seek help. Let's all play our part in supporting our young and parents who are in distress.

Angie Chew (Adjunct Associate Professor)


Brahm Centre

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2019, with the headline 'Need to destigmatise mental illness'. Print Edition | Subscribe