COVID-19 SPECIAL

Lack of personal space, family issues bother youth

Covid-19 and its associated circuit breaker measures have exacted a toll on the mental health of people in Singapore. The Straits Times reports on the impact on various groups.

ST ILLUSTRATIONS: CEL GULAPA

Last month, a teenager suffering from depression committed suicide. According to her counsellor, the strain of being cooped up at home and a poor relationship with her parents contributed to her emotional turmoil, even though she had been trying to work through it.

The case was one of the most severe seen by the counsellor, Ms Megan Tang, recently.

She said that with circuit breaker measures in force to stem the coronavirus spread, some young people face a variety of challenges from having prolonged periods indoors.

These include a lack of personal safe space, tension at home and self-identity issues, which become more pronounced when the youth is unable to partake in his usual activities.

The charity, Limitless, which helps youth with mental health issues, has seen increased demand for help, with each of its four full-time staff taking on more than 50 cases last month, up from 30 to 40 a month previously, said Ms Tang.

Touchline, a helpline for youth-related issues run by Touch Integrated Family Group, fielded 52 calls in the past two months, more than the 31 in the same period last year.

Touch's senior counsellor Shawn Soh said there were calls from parents with concerns about cyber wellness and the excessive use of devices by their children, as well as anxiety and depression among youth.

Fei Yue Community Services' online counselling service eC2.sg also saw a rise in chat sessions, from 139 in March to 193 last month, said youth services head Wong Ying Li.

Many callers are young people with anxiety, though the service is now open to anyone who needs help amid the pandemic.

Some of the youth are afraid of contracting the virus and passing it on to their family members.

"Some are also learning how to cope staying at home and dealing with existing and complex family relationships, now that they are more homebound," said Ms Wong.

 
 
 
 

"They may feel bored but may soon feel depressed or stuck and beg for more clarity and a definitive outlook of the evolving situation. Some may turn to alternative but dangerous or negative ways to cope or manage themselves."

Ms Tang said one way parents can help is to try and impose some form of normalcy, and be less demanding with youth about schoolwork. Parents should not see being more flexible as giving in to their children, but as working out a new relationship in unprecedented times, she added.

They should also be open to the idea of their children seeking professional help for mental health issues.

Mr Soh said young people can draw on ways of self-care, such as deep breathing or relaxation exercises, talking to friends frequently, or even taking a hot shower.

"It is important to provide youth with the necessary mental health support during this period. If they can cope better, it will teach them to be more resilient and have a higher level of perseverance and endurance in the future," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2020, with the headline 'Lack of personal space, family issues bother youth'. Subscribe