SINGAPORE - Mental health education lessons will be progressively introduced at all primary, secondary and pre-university levels over the next two years, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on Saturday (Dec 11).
These lessons, which encourage students to seek help when needed and build resilience, have already been rolled out to all lower secondary students under the refreshed character and citizenship education curriculum.
This comes after the death of a River Valley High School student in July cast youth mental health issues into the spotlight.
Mr Chan stressed that the mental well-being of students “remains and will always be a priority” for his ministry, in an update following his ministerial statement in July on the River Valley High School incident.
On July 19, police officers found a 13-year-old boy lying motionless with multiple wounds in a toilet in the school.
A 16-year-old was arrested and an axe was seized as evidence. The teen was charged with murder on July 20 and is in remand while his case is pending before the courts.
Since September, all schools have set aside time and space at the start of each term for teachers to check in on their students’ well-being, said Mr Chan, who was speaking at the launch of the e-book Project: It’ll Be Alright.
The book features 40 stories by young people of diverse backgrounds on their mental health struggles and path to recovery. It can be accessed at this website.
“Teachers have been given practical pedagogical resources to monitor and support students’ well-being,” said Mr Chan.
“Lesson activities have also been designed to help teachers kick-start conversations with students to share and discuss well-being issues, and reinforce class commitment to look out for one another.”
He acknowledged the challenges and pressures that young people face, including how technology and social media use may have fuelled feelings of anxiety and distorted their self-image.
He raised the example of cyber bullying, which can be hard for parents to detect, and the fear of missing out, which many students said had driven up their anxiety levels.
“In addition, the increased stresses aggravated by the prolonged Covid-19 situation have brought youth mental well-being concerns to the fore.
“Some parents are facing financial and job uncertainty. The resulting tension at home has affected the mental well-being of the family and their children,” he said.
Other efforts to look out for students’ well-being include a peer support structure that has been rolled out in all schools.
Mr Chan noted that young people tend to turn to their peers for help, and this peer support system will empower students to make an impact on their school community.
To illustrate how the system works, he gave the example of Secondary 3 student Chiam Zhi Quan, who volunteered to be a peer support leader in her class.
The Kranji Secondary School student reaches out to classmates who are going through challenges and has joined a school initiative to educate others about the impact of hurtful words and how to be less judgmental towards others.
“Such peer-led ground-up initiatives are powerful. We must continue to encourage our youths to co-create this ecosystem of support,” said Mr Chan.
He shared that parent support groups have heeded his call to help parents whose children and families need more support. There are 25 such groups “leading the charge” in various ways, said Mr Chan.
“Some are sharing resources and directing fellow parents to community helplines. Others are organising sessions to share parenting tips and advice on identifying signs of stress and ways to seek help,” he added.