Parents supporting kids with mental health issues should 'just listen'

For parents who are supporting their children with mental health issues, the most important thing is to listen to them, rather than offer advice or solutions, said panellists at a dialogue session yesterday.

This was one key message during Let's Talk, For Real: A Youth Mental Resilience Initiative Panel Dialogue, organised by mental health charity Resilience Collective, which helps people understand mental health.

Let's Talk, For Real aims to engage young people, their families and the community in open conversations about mental health, and develop programmes and peer support networks to help build mental resilience and recovery strategies.

A survey conducted by the Resilience Collective found that while 78 per cent of parents thought their child would want to speak to them about their mental health struggles, only 20 per cent of the youth said they would do so.

The survey, which polled 147 young people and 57 parents online from May, found that most of them felt it difficult to have conversations about mental health at home.

As much as 57 per cent of the youth said they would seek help from mental health professionals or helplines without their parents' knowledge.

The dialogue, moderated by Mr Haikel Fahim, host and founder of the Ironing Board Podcast, was live-streamed by the Resilience Collective on Facebook and YouTube yesterday. Around 200 people tuned in.

Ms Leanne Robers, 37, a psychotherapist who specialises in working with the youth, said parents should not dismiss their children's mental health struggles or focus on providing solutions, as this does not make them feel seen or heard. "That... makes them feel even worse, because they're already feeling alone," she said.

Ms Natalie Lim, 55, a caregiver to her child who has a mental health condition, said parents should listen to understand, without judgment, and validate their children's emotions. She said: "If you can't make them feel that what (they're) going through is real, then they're not going to talk to you."

Other panellists added that young people also have a role in helping their parents to support them.

Ms Tasneem Abdul Majeed, 21, a student who has lived with anxiety issues, said young people with mental health struggles could tell their parents how to support them, such as through listening, advice, or referrals to teachers.

Mr Desmond Ng, 27, a student who has experienced schizophrenia, said young people should give parents the space to understand their mental health issues and how to help them. "It's a two-way street... We are both learning (about) what is actually going on."