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With youth mental health issues on the rise, Govt calls for ideas

SINGAPORE — While other youths his age were off to school, George (not his real name), 15, chose to spend his days playing video games at home instead. When his parents switched off his computer, he tried to stab them with a kitchen knife and later threatened to jump from a window.

With youth mental health issues on the rise, Govt calls for ideas

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee trying out a game of Counter Strike to understand how Touch counsellors use it to connect with youths through gameplay, and to help youths be aware of how to regulate their emotions in stressful situations.

SINGAPORE — While other youths his age were off to school, George (not his real name), 15, chose to spend his days playing video games at home instead. When his parents switched off his computer, he tried to stab them with a kitchen knife and later threatened to jump from a window.

George later revealed to Touch Community Services social workers that his excessive gaming stemmed from anger management issues.

Ms Andrea Chan, head of Touch Youth Intervention, said that there is a trend of youths adopting unhealthy online habits as a way of coping with emotional and mental stress.

“You can reduce gaming, but if you don’t learn to regulate your emotions, then it translates into something else, be it smoking, alcohol or online shopping addictions,” she said.

She added that by recognising how online habits and emotional problems are connected, Touch has been able to help youths like George by showing them how to manage their thoughts and emotions.

At a visit to Touch Community Services on Friday (Feb 7), Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee invited those interested in solving youth mental health challenges to step forward with their ideas.

While the registration window for interested parties ends on Feb 21, Mr Lee said that the Government will continue to welcome ideas and feedback afterwards.

He said the Government is pursuing this because youth at the National Youth Council’s 2018 Youth Conversations identified mental health issues such as depression and anxiety as one of the top issues they face.

He cited the latest study of mental health in Singapore (in 2016), which showed that one in seven Singaporeans above 18 encountered in their lifetime anxiety, moods and alcohol-related challenges. In 2010, it was one in eight.

“Young people wanted to know what more they could do to help their peers, friends and family members, and they are taking action to do things on the ground in partnership with communities and the Government,” he said.

Mr Lee said he hopes the Government can collaborate with these ground-up initiatives and organisations to come up with innovative mental health solutions for youth.

He added that various companies and agencies are already looking for new methods to help youth with mental health issues.

For example, in August 2019, Touch Community Services launched DigitalMINDSET, a nine-month intervention programme for youths that uses family, group and individual counselling sessions to tackle both mental health issues as well as excessive gaming and device usage at the same time.

Mr Lee said: “There are so many areas where work is being done, yet there are so many new areas and frontiers where we can partner Singaporeans and organisations who are passionate about this to provide more holistic and effective solutions.”

Interested parties who wish to submit their ideas can do so via this link.

Related topics

Desmond Lee mental health Youth

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