Response

Youth suicides, and indeed any form of suicides, are painful to family members. Suicides among our students are also painful for our teachers and their fellow students. They often occur due to a combination of reasons. These include family problems, relationship difficulties, difficulties in coping with challenges, and mental health issues.

In the last ten years, the suicide rate in Singapore has fluctuated from year to year within a certain band. Statistics published by the birth and death registry of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) indicates that from 2004 to 2013, the number of suicide cases among those aged 19 and below ranged from 10 to 19 cases per year. The numbers include those who had left school.

Our schools take the well-being of every student seriously. Each school has a referral system that facilitates early and systematic identification of students with difficulties. Our teachers look out for changes in students’ behaviour and provide the first line of intervention to assist students with more immediate concerns. Students are also encouraged to be supportive of one another and encourage their friends to seek help from a trusted adult when they encounter difficulties. Cases requiring further support are referred to the school counsellors and IMH’s community mental health 1 teams for assessment and further intervention.

Schools seek to strengthen the mental well-being and resilience of students through:
* providing a caring and supportive school environment for students to develop healthy and positive relationships with teachers and friends;
* raising awareness of psychological well-being and equipping them with social and emotional skills. These include teaching them help-seeking skills and strategies to cope with challenges; and
* providing a balanced and engaging curriculum that will enable students to develop holistically, explore their interests and discover their strengths.

Suicide is a complex problem for which there is no straight forward solution. We need to provide a strong network of support for our students. At the same time, we need to help them develop a positive outlook and the resilience to face the challenges of life. These will require parents, education institutions, community, media and other key stakeholders to work closely together.

MOE works closely with other government agencies and community groups on prevention and intervention measures, such as peer support networks and mental health education packages. MOE also collaborates with Ministry of Social and Family Development to organise parenting seminars and workshops to promote youth and children’s mental well-being.

Footnote
  1. IMH’s community mental health teams refer to REACH, which stands for Response, Early Intervention and Assessment in Community Mental Health. It is a MOE-MOH/IMH network to provide more timely and accessible mental health services to students in schools. The project was set up in 2007 to provide more timely and accessible mental health services to students in schools. REACH services include providing consultation to SCs through a helpline to discuss strategies to support students with emotional and behavioural difficulties.