Mental Health

Published Date: 05 October 2020 09:00 PM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Ms Raeesah Khan, Sengkang GRC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education (a) what types of support do students facing mental health issues receive in schools; (b) currently, what is the ratio of counsellors trained to work with students with mental health issues to students in primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions, including autonomous universities; (c) what is being done to ensure that students with mental health issues belonging to different income groups receive the support they need; (d) what is being done to de-stigmatise mental health issues in schools; and (e) whether the Ministry will consider annual reports tracking support for mental health issues in schools to be presented to Parliament.

Response

1. MOE closely monitors the state of well-being of our students and is committed to meeting their needs. As part of Mental Health Education in the Character and Citizenship Education curriculum, students learn about mental health issues, coping skills, emotional regulation and help-seeking strategies. We are also strengthening peer support in schools, encouraging students to look out for each other’s well-being and to alert an adult if their peers are feeling distressed or struggling with mental health issues.

2. To destigmatise mental health issues, students are taught to show care, respect and empathy to all, including people with mental health issues. Discussions on related issues such as anxieties and uncertainties that students face, unhealthy expectations and social comparisons, stigma and other barriers to help-seeking also help to normalise conversations on mental health.

3. These efforts continue in the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), where curricular and co-curricular mental health programmes and peer support networks seek to further raise awareness, equip students with knowledge of mental health and build resilience.

4. As part of the eco-system of support, teachers and lecturers are trained to identify signs of distress in their students, monitor their well-being, and provide guidance and support. Counsellors also provide additional support to students who need it. Each primary school, secondary school and junior college has one to two counsellors while each polytechnic and ITE college has four to seven counsellors. The Autonomous Universities are similarly equipped with counsellors depending on their size and student profile. They are further augmented by a pool of Teacher Counsellors, Para-counsellors and Flexi-Adjunct Counsellors. For students who require further assessment and intervention, our counsellors tap on community mental health professionals such as the Response, Early Assessment and Intervention for Community Mental Health (REACH) teams and Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT).

5. All students with social-emotional needs, including those with mental health issues, will receive the necessary support regardless of their family’s financial situation. Some schools also have Student Welfare Officers (SWOs) who mentor and provide social support to disadvantaged students and we plan to further expand the pool of SWOs. Our schools and IHLs work closely with community partners and social service agencies to support students and their families in a holistic manner, as well as to promote youth mental well-being.

6. MOE will continue to find different ways to put out information on the mental well-being of our students, and to raise public awareness. We are also mindful that students dealing with mental health issues, as well as their parents, often prefer to keep their issues and support they are receiving confidential and private. We have to respect their preferences and wishes, and find the right balance in tackling these difficult issues.

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