By Yasmeen Banu
Nadya Hutagalung, the 39-year old host of Asia’s Next Top Model (ASNTM), recently revealed why she had decided to leave Singapore.
“This is why we left Singapore,” she posted on her Twitter account on 8 May. She was apparently referring to her family – Singaporean husband, Desmond Koh, former national swimmer, and her three children – sons Tyrone, 20; Fynn,12; and daughter, Nyla, 6.
The tweet by Ms Hutagalung, who is Indonesian-born but is an Australian citizen, was accompanied by a link to an article about youth suicides on the website of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).
“Kids need to be kids. The youth suicide rates are high & unreported,” the TV host, model, eco-activist and jewellery designer said.
She later added:
The SDP article, titled ‘Why do we do this to our children?’ spoke about the cases of a couple of students who took their own lives due to pressure in school or not faring well in exams.
The article said that “while a majority of the American and Japanese children said that losing a friend or the death of their parents was their number one fear, Singaporean students said that not achieving good grades was what they were most afraid of.”
It also said that calls to an Institute of Mental Health (IMH) programme to help schoolchildren with psychological problems increased with a nearly 30-fold jump within a year, with 70 per cent of the cases involving primary school children.
“We must not subject our children to such crippling school pressures that they are psychologically maimed and, in some cases, have their young lives taken,” the article went on to say.
Another celebrity who has left Singapore because of the education system is local entertainer, Moe Alkaff, who had hosted several tv shows in Singapore before he left.
He said that Singapore’s rigid education system and his wife’s worry to be closer to her family was what led him to eventually settle in the United States in 2000.
Mr Alkaff, 48, who has two children – Shamzi, 11, and Zara, 9 – now lives with his family in Fort Collins, Colorado.
In an interview with Yahoo recently, the well-known entertainer who runs Moezik Events International, described life there in the States:
“We live in an estate like a kampong (small village), they all go to the same school 200 metres away, all on bicycle. Every kid in the same estate goes there and they will all come back together, play outside, they go into our house, open and raid our fridge,” said the rubber-faced comedian with a ready smile.
“That’s the kind of life I want my kids to have because that’s the kind of life I had. In Singapore, you can’t see that anymore: kids playing downstairs, going into each other’s house, going to school together and becoming like brothers and sisters.”
One of the push factors to leave was the Singapore education system, he said.
“The education system is pretty stiff here (Singapore), it has created great people but is there enough creativity?” he asked. “I want my kids to be street smart. The schools there (Colorado) are different. They take some subjects from Singapore, like math, but the rest involves a lot about their social abilities in terms of being creative, so my kids always come back with projects to do for school. I like that because they get parents involved too,” Mr Alkaff said.
In 2012, it was reported that the number of suicide cases rose by some 30 per cent to hit a 20-year high. With the increase in percentage mostly coming from young adults aged 20 to 29, it was indeed a cause for concern.
The statistics back in 2012 reported 467 suicides, compared to the previous year, with 361 cases.
The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) has so far only provided National Suicide Statistics up till 2012. No recent statistic has been released yet.
If you know anyone undergoing extreme stress or pressures, you can encourage them to talk to someone at these hotlines:
For suicide prevention and crisis:
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
Family Service Centre: 1800-838-0100
Singapore Armed Forces-SAF (for SAF personnel): 1800-278-0022
For Mandarin-speaking folks:
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling Centre: 1800-353-5800
For the elderly folks:
Seniors Helpline: 1800-555-5555
For young adults and children:
Tinkle Friend: 1800- 274-4788 (on weekdays)
Youth Line: 6336 3434 (on weekdays)
Touch Line: 1800-377-2252
 (Photo – Guardian)

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