Schools taking steps to reduce stress in students
New school programmes strengthen mental resilience, promote well-being
During morning assembly last month, Deyna Yeo, 15, stood nervously before her schoolmates in Serangoon Garden Secondary School and made a speech.
The Secondary 3 student shared how the support of friends and teachers had encouraged her after she failed four subjects in the mid-year exams, and she urged her peers to persevere during difficult times.
This weekly programme, Celebration Friday, is one of the innovative ways being used by schools to strengthen their students' mental resilience.
School principal Stephen Tay told The New Paper that the students identified by teachers to share their stories of overcoming challenges have become more confident, and their "real-life, authentic" examples are effective in inspiring their peers.
This follows a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that shows students having high levels of anxiety, especially over exams and grades.
Parliament was told that around five out of every 1,000 students received counselling support to manage anxiety from academic stress last year.
Besides counselling, specific programmes have been introduced to help students cope with life's challenges, said a Ministry of Education (MOE) spokesman.
For instance, outdoor education, aimed at promoting students' well-being, is a feature in many schools.
At Concord Primary School, pupils get to go on nature and outdoor trails, abseiling and kayaking.
It also has the Gratitude Project, which has been piloted in two primary and four secondary schools, where students are encouraged to share experiences they feel grateful for.
Concord Primary's principal, Mrs Tonnine Chua, said the teachers have observed that the pupils are now happier.
She added: "They are taught thatwhile stress may be inevitable in life, they must learn to overcome their 'mental monsters' and never give up."
Mr Tay thinks that holistic programmes are a "preventive rather than reactive" reaction to dealing with stress.
He said: "It is a matter of building resilience even before (stress) presents itself as an overwhelming problem."
The MOE spokesman said students may feel anxious for reasons such as academic performance, health and relationships.
She added: "Such anxieties are more common during adolescence as they experience changes in their thinking, emotions and social relationships."
Psychiatrist Lim Boon Leng said signs such as loss of appetite, difficulty in sleeping and lack of motivation could point to anxiety.
He added: "Parents can ensuretheir children have a healthy lifestyle with exercise as well as good eating and sleeping patterns. But it is also important they manage their expectations. A child may top the class, but it does not necessarily mean that he or she is a more responsible or useful person in society."