Impact of COVID-19 on Students’ Mental Health

Published Date: 27 July 2021 05:00 PM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Murali Pillai, Bukit Batok SMC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education (a) since the COVID-19 pandemic started, how many students have been reported to have committed suicide, attempted suicide or suffered from mental health issues; (b) whether the numbers suggest an uptick from the corresponding numbers before the pandemic; (c) what are the contributory factors to the current state of affairs; and (d) what steps are being or will be taken by his Ministry to improve the mental resilience of our students.

Response

1. Based on ICA data, the suicide incidence rate for young persons aged 10 to 19 increased from 4.0 per 100,000 persons in 2019 to 5.5 per 100,000 persons in 2020. This increase is part of an overall increase in the suicide incidence rate at the national level, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Student welfare, including mental well-being, is of utmost importance to MOE. We are monitoring the issue of student suicide closely. The underlying causes of suicide are complex. There are often multiple contributory stressors, including relationship problems with adults and peers, mental health issues, academic related difficulties and personal struggles. We have observed that the COVID-19 situation has aggravated existing stressors. These could include frustrations arising from disruptions of normal routine, a heightened sense of uncertainty about the future, and increased inter-personal conflicts at home due to restricted movement. These observations are in line with international literature, which indicates that the pandemic has resulted in an increase in psychological distress and mental health-related issues among youths.

3. Our schools and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) have been strengthening students' mental well-being and enhancing their personal resilience through Mental Health Education in the Character and Citizenship Education curriculum in schools, and mental resilience and well-being programmes in the IHLs.

4. Beyond education efforts, schools and IHLs have teachers and staff who are trained to identify signs of distress in their students, monitor their well-being, and provide guidance and support. In-house counsellors provide additional targeted support to students and make prompt referrals to mental health professionals where necessary. Our schools and IHLs have also trained Peer Support Leaders look out for their peers and alert a trusted adult when they notice that their peers are in distress.

5. During the COVID-19 period, MOE introduced further measures to support our students. For example, teachers conduct check-ins to closely monitor their students' well-being, and classroom time is used to teach students how to cope with the pandemic. Schools and IHLs have also stepped up efforts to proactively identify and look out for vulnerable students and reach out to them to provide early support. Ultimately, a culture of care is important, as well as mutual concern for each other.

6. MOE will continue to strengthen our measures, and work closely with all stakeholders to help ensure the safety and well-being of our students.

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