Forum: Way forward on mental health is to normalise counselling

In recent days, so much has been said about helping youth to manage their mental health. Many methods were suggested, such as training teachers to be teacher-counsellors, adding more school counsellors and taking steps to ease student stress.

Managing youth mental health goes beyond helping the individual. It requires a systemic approach. The family plays a vital role in helping youth overcome mental challenges. While work needs to be done with the youth, when he goes back home, positive family support is needed to help him sustain the recovery and change.

As a counsellor in private practice, I have observed that among my younger clients, those who thrived are those with very strong family support.

The way forward is to normalise counselling. The notion that a person who wants to be mentally healthy can engage a counsellor should be a widely accepted one. Counselling is not meant just for those who are mentally ill.

The late Mr Anthony Yeo, highly regarded as a leader in the counselling profession here, aptly defined counselling in his book as "a human encounter that involves people helping people in a relationship established for this purpose. This relationship is facilitated by the counsellor with skilful responses to engage the client in problem-solving".

At the end of the process, the client would have the skill to problem-solve, and this skill stays with him.

Counselling must exist at every level of society, be it the workplace or at school. Healthy family units mean a healthy society.

Shirley Woon