SINGAPORE - By 2022, all schools will have a support structure made up of students to encourage them to help one another.
Schools will select peer support leaders to take on a more active role in looking out for their peers, and help students to understand mental health issues and learn how to seek support, Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah said on Wednesday (March 4).
Mental health education will also be included in the refreshed character and citizenship education curriculum for secondary schools, she said during the debate on the Education Ministry's budget.
She was responding to several MPs, like Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) and Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh, who asked how schools would strengthen mental health education to help students handle challenges.
The aim is to "help students to understand common mental health issues and their symptoms, know when and how to seek help for themselves and others, and develop empathy and care towards persons with mental health issues", Ms Indranee added.
Similarly, polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education have worked with the Health Promotion Board to develop mental health resources for their students, so they have a better grasp of mental well-being, can identify signs of distress, and learn to seek help when needed.
Said Ms Indranee: "With stronger mental health education and peer support cultures, students will also be able to watch out for one another, and seek guidance from teachers and counsellors if they notice that a friend is struggling."
The mental well-being of young people in Singapore has come up as a key concern in the past few years, with an increasing number of young people here seeking help for mental health challenges.
In her speech, Ms Indranee said: "Our vision is for every student to be a peer supporter, forming a strong network of support in their class, CCA or peer group, where they can look out for each other, and seek guidance from teachers or counsellors where necessary.
"The smallest, simplest gestures can make a difference. Anyone can do it. That's what makes peer support so powerful."