IMH, social service agencies to create youth mental health training curriculum

Today's youth face increasingly complex and novel challenges and societal pressures. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) will be working with social service agencies to co-create a training curriculum to help the agencies better care for youth with mental health conditions.

President Halimah Yacob announced this on Thursday (Oct 7) during her speech at the third Asia Pacific Conference and Meeting on Mental Health.

Associate Professor Daniel Fung, chief executive of IMH, told The Straits Times that the institute already has a curriculum for training community partners in basic mental health awareness of common disorders and crisis management.

This will be enhanced to cover a wider range of skills so that the agencies can manage youth with mental health difficulties.

This way, IMH hopes to equip the various agencies in Singapore with better skills and knowledge, explained Prof Fung.

The programme will have the following goals: to better equip the agencies with knowledge on youth mental health issues and to hone the curriculum recipients' skills to perform mental state and risk assessments, as well as teach them how to co-manage cases within the ecosystem and perform psychoeducation and basic psychosocial and behavioural interventions.

IMH is aiming to start the training programme in early 2022, said Prof Fung.

He added that in working with the agencies, IMH also hopes to achieve three broader objectives.

First, it aims to improve mental health literacy among the agencies.

This means helping them to understand the difference between mental health problems and mental health illnesses, identify mental health issues and provide early intervention, and help youth with mental health problems manage them and reduce their stress levels.

Second, IMH hopes to link the agencies with healthcare providers so that mild cases can be treated in the community at a primary care level, while severe cases are referred to IMH.

Third, it aims to train the agencies to identify groups that are at risk and intervene in an appropriate manner. This will involve working closely with schools, communities, healthcare providers and other agencies.

Prof Fung noted that today's youth face increasingly complex and novel challenges and societal pressures.

"They also face higher expectations from all around - at home, in peer groups, in social media and at school," he said, adding that other common stressors include pressure to fit in, learning to adapt to bodily changes during puberty, and even having to make important decisions about academic courses and future careers.

Many also struggle with existential issues and are trying to find meaning and purpose in life, said Prof Fung, warning that untreated stress can turn into more serious mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

"We need to grow and evolve the ecosystem, and beef up the areas where support for youth is still lacking," he said, adding that IMH is hoping to work with as many social service agencies as possible to address in particular the needs of young people who are in the midst of crisis or recovering from one, or those who have dropped out of school.

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