Forum: More needs to be done to help students deal with stress

Given the most unfortunate incident that happened at River Valley High School recently, in which a Secondary 1 boy was allegedly killed by a Secondary 4 student, I would like to bring attention to a Straits Times article, "School stress: More teens seek IMH help" (April 12, 2019).

At that time, the number of students seeking help at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for school-related stress was scary enough - 2,400 new cases a year from 2012 to 2017.

Yet those numbers did not include the following:

• The number of students being seen by their school counsellors;

• The number of students with mental health challenges but who refused to see the school counsellor for fear of being stigmatised and discriminated against, or of being bullied and harassed;

• The number of students seeing private therapists because their parents did not want others to know that their children had a mental health problem;

• The number of distressed and depressed students who called counselling hotlines, for example Samaritans of Singapore or Tinkle Friend, on their own.

So the number of students with mental health problems could possibly be much higher. And I am not sure if we know the numbers since 2019.

On top of everything, the Covid-19 situation would have generated more mental health challenges in young people, given the restrictions and study from home programmes.

We need to know how bad the mental health situation among our children is, and if we are taking meaningful measures to contain it.

This is a national problem and challenge.

It needs the entire village to get onto it - parents, siblings, family, teachers, educators, all relevant ministries, tuition teachers, tuition centres, therapists, counselling agencies, mental health institutions, police and the courts as well.

This is not purely a Ministry of Education problem. Education stress is only part of it.

All stakeholders need information and need to get on board and collaborate to manage this growing risk.

Frank Singam

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