Schools offer mental health support to students and staff

River Valley High School staff waiting outside the grounds as students returned to the school on Wednesday, after a public holiday on Tuesday. An alleged murder at the school on Monday has shaken the nation.
River Valley High School staff waiting outside the grounds as students returned to the school on Wednesday, after a public holiday on Tuesday. An alleged murder at the school on Monday has shaken the nation.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Schools across Singapore have told students that they can approach teachers and counsellors to discuss Monday's alleged murder at River Valley High School, which has shaken the nation.

At least six notices have been sent since Tuesday evening by principals of primary and secondary schools addressing the incident and offering psychological support to students and staff.

The Straits Times understands that several principals spoke about the incident during school assemblies - including at Juying Secondary School and Singapore Chinese Girls' School - on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a 16-year-old student from River Valley High School was charged with murder in a district court. He cannot be named as he is under 18 years old.

Some principals also prayed for the families and students affected by the tragedy.

At Methodist Girls' School, principal Grace Ng, in a letter, appealed to parents to help their children process the incident, while offering help from school counsellors and form teachers.

Ms Ng said: "It will be important to help our children understand that this is indeed an exceptional incident and tragedy, and schools remain a safe and caring space."

In a notice to parents and guardians, Mrs Mary Seah, principal of School of the Arts Singapore (Sota), outlined how its teachers will talk to students about the incident - including acknowledging that it is normal to worry about their safety - and the tightening of school security.

She said: "The mental health of our students remains the most important factor."

Parents told ST that they are rattled by the incident and concerned about how to discuss what happened with their children.

A 48-year-old housewife who wanted to be known as Mrs Kam said: "I had to stabilise myself before talking to my children about the incident. I never thought it would happen on our shores."

  • Helplines

  • • National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868

    MENTAL WELL-BEING

    • Fei Yue's Online Counselling Service: eC2.sg

    • Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222

    • Samaritans of Singapore: 1-767 (24 hours)

    • Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6385-3714

    • Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788

    COUNSELLING

    • TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252

    • Care Corner Counselling Centre: 1800-353-5800

Her two children attend Maris Stella High School and St Margaret's Secondary School, which have addressed the matter by speaking to the students directly or asking them to pen their thoughts in class.

Mrs Esther Foong, whose children, aged eight and 10, attend Rulang Primary School, said: "I think the school did a good job (in helping pupils to understand the incident) because my daughter came home and told me how she learnt to show more care and concern for her friends."

The 36-year-old co-founder of The Treasure Box SG, which provides resources for families, said: "I think everyone plays a part, not just teachers, in helping students to be more gracious in their speech and actions as well as looking after their mental welfare."

For many parents, the incident has been a reminder to pay attention to their children's mental health.

Housewife Pichaya Sretthoe, 44, whose daughter is a Secondary 1 Sota student, said that parents at the school have started a survey to see how they can help support their children's mental well-being.

She said: "I am more concerned about how I should deal with my own kid - how to help her have a healthy mind, and how to prevent her from having dangerous thoughts that may result in her harming herself or others."


  • Additional reporting by Gabrielle Ng
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2021, with the headline 'Schools offer mental health support to students and staff'. Subscribe