Youth suicide affects the entire family. It goes beyond being a health problem. We look at obvious challenges which young people face and group them into three key categories - Social, Schools and Healthcare - with the hope that we can start a helpful conversation to break them down and find pathways and coping strategies.
I feel like it is a major major problem as I've had 4 close friends in the last few years who have contemplated suicide.
All had their own unique lives and different reasons but it usually boiled down to two main points, feeling alone (even when they are loved by those around them, family and friends alike) and the societal pressure to do well.
~ friend of Mitchell (2001-2018)
WHO has reported that the adolescent years are most vulnerable to mental illness. Transitions between the various stages of life present social, emotional and physical challenges.
In Singapore we observe that our young people experience several important rites of passage as they transition from teens to young adults.
10 - 13 : The "tween" years involve transitioning from pre-puberty to being a teenager. Crossing the PSLE national exams is usually a major milestone and hotbed of anxiety. From taking 4 subjects in primary, our youths take on 7 to 8 subjects in secondary school. Bodily changes begin to show. It heralds the start of emotional irritability and mood swings.
13 - 16: Discovery of sexuality, romantic friendships, curiosity and experimental behaviour take root - from cosmetics to smoking to sex. Bravado, territorial prowess, sportsmanship and other character traits are forming to set apart the self from others. The O Levels exams become a source of stress as decisions on academic pathways become a crucial.
16 - 19: A deepening of loyalty, empathy, self-awareness and independence especially from parental control and boundaries. For boys, the National Service becomes a high point of "manhood" as defined by society. The A levels, IB and Polytechnic final exams are major academic hurdles for many.
19 and beyond: The pressures of life mounts. Qualifying for University and competing for a good job, finding a life partner perhaps and living up to family or self-expectations bear down. Hard decisions become necessary, living becomes serious and challenges become more daunting.
All these transitions come with multiple pressures on a young person's emotional and psychological
"The adolescent brain also remains under development. Up until puberty, brain cells continue to bloom in the frontal region. Adolescents engage in increased risk-taking behaviors and emotional outbursts possibly because the frontal lobes of their brains are still developing. Recall that this area is responsible for judgment, impulse control, and planning, and it is still maturing into early adulthood"(Casey, Tottenham, Liston, & Durston, 2005).
by Megan, 2017
"This is a trend - young people are seeing examples of impaired mental health. Some may have experienced it themselves. They are very concerned about what they can do for people who need help with their mental health, as part of an inclusive society, and want to be able to reach out and support their peers,"
- Sim Ann, Minister for State for Culture, Family and Youth, and co-chair of SG Youth Action Plan