Stress in Singaporean Students
Childhood stress, anxiety, and depression is a real worry in this era that we live in – according to the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 10-29 and there are 2.4 times more deaths from suicide than transport accidents. SOS received around 1,900 calls from youths aged 5 to 19 in 2016.
The idea that our children can get stressed out when we’ve gone through the same things in our past is the wrong way of looking at things; Singapore has gone through a number of changes even within one generation, and our childhood and theirs are extremely different – similar to how my parents’ childhoods were vastly different from mine.
A Change of Mindset is Needed
One source of stress that kids face is the long-held belief that there’s only one route to success in life, which is through the need to get into a good university. Even though we’re slowly changing, the overall mindset of society still remains stuck in the past. The government has acknowledged this problem and is trying to reduce stress by creating a more supportive educational environment, but they’ve admitted that changing mindsets is not easy and takes time.
Second Minister for Education, Indranee Rajah, addressed concerns such as students’ high levels of anxiety, and whether the PSLE is necessary as there’s a large amount of pressure tied to it. She said that our education system has evolved, moving from the focus on ensuring mass education to introducing greater choice and flexibility in schools and programmes.
The current focus is on developing each individual and creating multiple pathways to success. They also believe in character development, and having social and emotional skills that are needed in this world.
Signs of Stress
Reactions to stress usually manifest through changes in behaviour, so we should look out for these:
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns, either eating/sleeping too much or too little
- Staunch refusal to go to school
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Speaking negatively about themselves
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities that they enjoyed
- Mood swings
- Self-harm marks
If your child’s reaction to stress appears severe or out of the ordinary, you should consider approaching a mental health professional.
If your child is talking about suicide or dying, don’t make light of it. Depressed and suicidal people often feel like suicide is the only recourse for them.
We parents can help our kids cope with stress through:
- Constantly assuring our kids that they are loved and are important
- Acknowledge their worries and feelings
- Try your best not to judge or criticise them
- Keep comparisons to other children down to a minimum
- Listen to what they say and try to give them solutions, but make sure not to be too quick when giving solutions or jumping to conclusions
- Ensure they get enough sleep, food, and exercise
- Spend more time with them
Here are some helplines that are available to contact should you need advice:
- Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
- Institute of Mental Health’s mobile crisis service: 6389-2222
- Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
- Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
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