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IMH child clinics see about 2,400 new cases of younger patients seeking treatment every year

More students from top schools seeking help for school-related anxiety and depression.

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The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) has reported that its Child Guidance Clinics, which treat patients between the ages of 6 and 18, saw an average of about 2,400 new cases each year, in a five year period from 2012-2017.

The healthcare institution noted that more students from top schools are seeking help for school-related stress and that stress-related anxiety and depression are conditions it sees most at its clinics.

IMH’s department of developmental psychiatry deputy chief and senior consultant Dr Lim Choon Guan told the New Paper: “Over the past few years, I have seen more teenagers in our clinic who are from top schools and report experiencing school-related stress.”

Adding that this trend could just be indicative that more youths are willing to seek help, Dr Lim said that school-related stress could range from stress over academic elements like homework and examinations, or relationship-based stress from experiences with school authority figures, and peers.

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School stress and mental health among youths recently gained attention online after a netizen who identified herself as a 17-year-old student claimed that mental illness among students in secondary schools and JCs is overlooked.

Describing herself as a “privileged Singaporean youth suffering from mental illness,” 17-year-old Quora user Ilya Lee shared that she attends the International Baccalaureate programme in a “top school” in Singapore and that she was recently “admitted into IMH’s psychiatric ward (the child ward) for suicide attempts and a history of depressive episodes, due to immense stress from studies among other things.”

Asserting that there are “a lot of problems and ugliness behind the scenes in Singaporean schools,” Lee cited anecdotal evidence of students struggling with the pressure to perform well and competitiveness as examples of the issues in local schools. She wrote:

“I don’t have exact numbers or statistics, but I can say for a fact that many Singaporean kids are suffering as a result of the toxic competitiveness rampant among parents, schools and the entire education system as well as the pressure to do well for exams.
“It isn’t uncommon to find Singaporean students struggling with clinical depression, anxiety, self harm and suicidal thoughts as a result of stress and studies, especially in the more elite schools. There are even cases of students killing themselves over grades.”

Lee shared that her own brother, a JC student, “killed himself two years ago, partly due to the pressure from my parents to do well.” She added:

“During my time in the ward, I met at least 4 kids from top secondary schools and JCs who either attempted suicide or seriously self harmed as a result of school stress. This probably isn’t surprising for many Singaporeans, but most of these cases rarely reach the media, or even anybody from outside the schools, because the school management/government bodies are very tight lipped about things like this.”
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The student added that healthcare for mental illnesses seem to be “underfunded and underdeveloped”, and that this lack of attention stands in stark contrast to the high quality of healthcare in general here. She wrote:

“Most importantly, mental health seems to be a very underfunded and underdeveloped area in Singapore’s healthcare system. This despite the fact that the rest of Singapore’s healthcare system is pretty much stellar. I heard about this from others, but never really understood the seriousness of the problem until my stay in IMH.
“The psychiatrists there seem very overworked, the ward was always filled to near full capacity (there was only one child ward, and people were being discharged way before they were ready to make space for others) and the practices within the ward (ie. physical restraints for even the slightest aggression) were seriously outdated. This really surprised me because I have had nothing but good experiences from hospitals for my physical illnesses from government/non-private hospitals.”

HELPLINES
• Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444

• Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

• Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

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• Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788

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