Critical to protect mental health of the young early: Halimah
Singapore has to step up efforts to strengthen their resilience, says President
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the academic routines and social activities of many children and young people, and has had a negative impact on their mental health.
Strengthening mental health resilience is all the more important during this period, said President Halimah Yacob yesterday, adding that Singapore has to step up efforts to protect the mental health of children early.
She was speaking at the virtual opening ceremony of the 24th World Congress of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions, where she outlined several strategies the Republic has adopted to bolster mental health support for its young.
Highlighting youth suicide as a growing concern, Madam Halimah said stakeholders such as hospitals, schools and community partners have stepped up efforts to work together to support those at risk.
Madam Halimah said besides placing great emphasis on preventive care and focusing intervention upstream, Singapore has also made efforts to improve public education and mental health literacy in children and youth.
She said: "It is essential to equip children with knowledge on common mental health conditions and ways to manage them, as well as develop in them empathy and care towards persons with mental health conditions."
This is why mental health education will be included in a revised curriculum to be progressively implemented from next year, and all schools here will establish peer support structures by 2022 to strengthen current peer support efforts, she added.
Online initiatives have also been rolled out to enhance young people's access to mental health resources. This includes mindline.sg, an online portal with mental health resources that can also assess users' emotional well-being.
Madam Halimah said the Republic adopts a whole-of-society approach in building a safety net for those living with mental health conditions.
It includes training schools and social service agencies to identify and manage at-risk children with severe emotional and behavioural problems, offering free mental health checks as well as rolling out coordinated mental health and social support services for at-risk youth.
The 2016 Singapore Mental Health Study found that more than three-quarters of those living with mental health conditions did not seek treatment.
"The delay in treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder was 11 years; four years for bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse; and two years for anxiety disorder," said Madam Halimah.
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Institute of Mental Health's crisis helpline: 6389-2222
Caregivers' Association of the Mentally Ill: 6782-9371
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
Caregivers Alliance (weekdays, 9am to 6pm): 6460-4400