Teens, don't suffer alone: Get help for handling problems like stress, depression

The teenager struggled with name-calling by tutors, peers and seniors at school.

Stressed out by an inability to fit in, she ended up suffering from very low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness.

Kat (not her real name) recalled: " I was also under pressure to do well and concerned about not being able to keep up academically."

It turns out Kai had depression. She told The Straits Times: 

"I was 15, and in the best class in my school (but depression meant) I lost my ability to concentrate in class and often skipped school.
"I was always tearful and living became a chore. I also started cutting myself and became addicted to it."

Her family and friends initially thought it was a case of teenage angst.

As Kat recounted: "My family wanted to help, but didn't know how to."

Depression is the most common mental illness in Singapore, according to the most recent large study done here on mental illness, the Singapore Mental Health Study.

The study projects that depression will affect 170,000 adults, or about 6.3 per cent of the adult population. But figures on teen depression are unavailable.

While parents can confuse it with angst or teenage rebellion against authority, Mr Ang Poh Hee, head of Singapore Association for Mental Health YouthReach, which provides rehabilitation and support for youth aged between 12 and 21, said:

"The earlier the acceptance of the illness, the greater the chance of the families seeking help, support and resources to help their child recover."

In Kat's case, it turned out abuse had contributed to her depression too.

"Under the advice of mental health professionals, we reported my father's abuse of my sister and me," she revealed.

Unfortunately, not everyone knows where to turn to.

School prefect Elspeth McKendrick, 16, killed herself last year after she was diagnosed with mild autism.

British paper Mirror reported that she desperately wanted to fit in at school and had a circle of friends but felt alone after doctors said she had Asperger's syndrome in 2012.

The condition tends to affect social interaction.

Problem making friends

Her mother Rebecca Jackson, 47, said Elspeth had problems socialising and making close friends.

She said: "Although she had a lot of friends she also wanted to have a close best friend and she did not have that.

"There were behavioural issues and tantrums that were beyond my experience of normal teenage tantrums because, for Elspeth, things were black and white."

If you or someone you know is having difficulties coping, here are some numbers to call:


  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
  • Institute of Mental Health's Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222
  • Samaritans of Singapore (24 hours): 1800-221-4444
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

Sources: Mirror, Straits Times