Some clinics see uptick in young people seeking help for mental health issues

Concerns were over issues such as anger management and friendship and family ties. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: THADDEUS ANG

SINGAPORE - More young people have been seeking help for their mental health in the past year, said psychologists.

There were three times more child cases at Annabelle Psychology in the past year, compared with the same period between 2020 and 2021, said Ms Kimberly Chew, a psychologist at the practice's partner Annabelle Kids, which focuses on supporting children.

Amid yet another year marked by Covid-19, she said, parents have also been worrying more about their children, following the death of a 13-year-old Secondary 1 student at River Valley High School on July 19 last year, allegedly murdered by a Sec 4 student.

She added: "Many parents reported feeling helpless or powerless because they could not safeguard their children 24/7.

"Overall, I believe that the incident definitely drew more attention to the importance of mental health and that emotional difficulties in youth should be taken more seriously.

"For some of the young people I work with, they have been the ones to reach out for help and initiate conversations with their parents about psychotherapy."

Also noting an increase in the number of young people seeking help at her clinic is senior forensic psychologist at Promises Healthcare, Ms June Fong.

She said there were a lot more new inquiries from concerned parents of schoolgoing children and teens initially after the incident, but that this number tapered off after about six months.

The concerns were over issues such as anger management, friendship and family ties.

Ms Fong added: "I think the incident... has actually opened a lot of parents' eyes to the stressors that children are facing, while previously in the past, they might have just brushed them aside and dismissed them."

While schools are doing all they can to help, Ms Fong said, some students at her clinic have told her they are reluctant to see school counsellors as they are worried it would have repercussions on their school performance or leadership roles.

Mr Gasper Tan, chief executive of Samaritans of Singapore, said that despite progress made in the area, more can be done.

The organisation saw a 127 per cent increase in numbers for both their 24-hour hotline and 24-hour text-based service from people aged 10 to 19 in 2021 over 2020.

Said Mr Tan: "This last year has definitely sparked more discussion on mental health in Singapore. Efforts have been ramped up and intensified, and several initiatives from the Government and other social service agencies and sectors have been introduced.

"Our work is not done though. We must continue working together to ensure help is accessible to all those who seek it, and to normalise conversations of mental health and suicide prevention."

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