TikTok to work with Govt, non-profits to train youths to be mental health content creators

(From left) TikTok users Ian Jeevan and Yanni Ruth, Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling, TikTok's Asia Pacific Head of Regional Product Policy, Trust & Safety Jamin Tan, and Touch Mental Wellness Assistant Director Andrea Chan. PHOTO: TIKTOK

SINGAPORE - Young people here can now apply to join a training programme to learn how to support others with mental health issues through content creation on the video-sharing platform TikTok.

As part of its Youth for Good initiative, TikTok will be running an eight-week training programme from June 28 to Aug 22.

The programme aims to teach young people to create educational content and to provide support to their peers who are struggling with their mental health, said TikTok in a statement.

To provide the training, the app has partnered with local non-profit organisations including Campus PSY, Care Corner, Care Singapore, Fei Yue Community Services, Samaritans of Singapore, Silver Ribbon (Singapore), and Touch Community Services for their expertise.

It will teach users which stigmatising words to avoid, how to notice and respond to early signs and symptoms of mental health issues in peers, how to tackle online harassment and cyber bullying and also share tips to take care of the trainees' own online well-being.

Applications opened last Friday (May 14) and will close at the end of the month, and are open to Singaporeans between the ages of 19 and 34.

The programme was launched at a panel discussion titled Conversations Without Walls, which was held live on the TikTok app last Friday.

The panel comprised Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling, TikTok's Asia-Pacific head of regional product policy, trust & safety Jamin Tan, assistant director of Touch Mental Wellness Andrea Chan and TikTok user and mental health advocate Yanni Ruth.

It was moderated by TikTok user and Singapore Management University (SMU) student Ian Jeevan.

The panel shared about their own experiences working with young people and mental health, along with some of their owns struggles with issues such as eating disorders. They also spoke on the need to reduce the stigma surrounding speaking up about mental health.

Ms Sun said: "We are placing a lot of emphasis on teaching students the telltale signs that their mental health is at risk... very importantly, we are trying to normalise these conversations in schools."

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, is popular among young people worldwide.

However, mental health content on the app has been characterised as oversimplifying complex issues in mental health.

In January, The New York Times (NYT) reported that therapists like licensed professional counsellor and former southern region chairman at the American Counselling Association Lisa Henderson were concerned that on TikTok, where videos are necessarily short, mental health treatments can be presented easy fixes.

"It can be misleading more so than intentionally harmful," she told NYT.

Despite this, students here said that the programme is both welcome and important.

SMU economics undergraduate and regular TikTok user Chng Lu Yee, 21, said: "I think this is a good idea because you can find both extremes of positive and negative content on TikTok.

"It is very influential especially among people slightly younger than me, whatever is trending on the app has a real influence which you can see in things like clothes and how people speak," she added.

The Youth for Good programme will be run with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, the MOE and the National Youth Council.

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