Every school has a trained school counsellor and teachers to support students with psychological and mental health-related issues such as anxiety, depression, relationship problems and suicidal behaviours.
This was an answer from the Ministry of Education (MOE) in response to questions raised by Nominated Member of Parliament, Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin.
Ms Kuik asked the Acting Minister for Education, Ng Chee Meng, the following questions :
- How schools handle discussions with students after one of their peers has committed suicide.
- How schools work with experts and organisations to support students struggling with suicide.
- Whether every school has access to professionals trained in mental health awareness for students to understand youth suicide.
- Whether the Ministry can prototype a mindfulness programme that sets aside time for students to have personal and peer-to-peer reflection on how they are dealing with life’s troubles.
The minister in his written reply to Ms Kuik, states that students who are assessed by school counsellors to be at high risk of suicide or severe mental health disorders are referred by Ministry of Health to multidisciplinary Response, Early Intervention and Assessment in Community Mental Health (REACH) teams and other social service agencies to provide additional professional support for the students and their families.
The minister also wrote that when a student suicide occurs, CARE (Caring Actions in Support of an Emergency) teams will be activated by the ministry to help staff and students cope with the psychological distress caused by the incident.
These CARE teams comprise teachers and school counsellors in the school and MOE HQ who have been specially trained to handle sessions with affected students and to monitor and strengthen their coping skills. While, students are reminded to be supportive of one another and to encourage their friends to seek help from a trusted adult when they feel overwhelmed. Parents are also provided with relevant information and resources to support their children.
MOE is said to have stepped up efforts to nurture the social and emotional competencies of students. From primary school through to secondary school, students are explicitly taught time management, relationship management, coping strategies and ways to maintain good mental well-being such as deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.
It states that students also have opportunities to practise and reflect on their social and emotional learning during camps and co-curricular activities. Form teachers are provided with time to foster positive teacher-student relationships and all teachers are equipped to provide the first line of care and support. 24-hour helplines supported by agencies such as SOS and Singapore Children’s Society are printed in all school handbooks.
However, the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) has highlighted that teens’ suicide hiked this year, despite the fact that the the overall suicide rate in Singapore had decreased.
According to SOS, more than two young people aged 10 to 19 committed suicide in every month last year which come to a total of 27 cases, which was twice as many as the year before and the highest in 15 years.
Earlier this year, a 13-year-old boy, Ng Teck Kiat was found dead in his school uniform at the foot of an HDB block in Jelebu Road in Bukit Panjang on 23 March.
On 18 May 2016, an 11-year old boy committed suicide by jumping off a block at 470A Fernvale Link. It was said that the boy was supposed to go to school to collect his exam papers so that his parents can acknowledge his results and sign on it.
The New Paper also reported on August that two Junior College (JC) students committed suicide in just within 10 days of each other. Both of them were A-level students, one in the first year and the other in the second year.
SOS said that students in Singapore have one of the highest levels of stress in the world due to a highly competitive education. This can be clearly shown by its tuition industry that is worth more than $1 billion in such a small country.