Ms Tin Pei Ling: To ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth given the National Youth Council's findings highlighting anxiety over the future and stress over finance as top stressors for youths in Singapore, what are the targeted mitigating measures in place to alleviate stress and promote greater mental wellness for our youths.
Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law:
- MCCY and our National Youth Council (NYC) regularly engage our youths to better understand how they feel and what challenges they face during the pandemic. In a poll conducted in the second half of 2020, our youths tell us that they perceive mental well-being to be a key challenge, and are particularly anxious about their future and finances1.
- Our Government has put in place a range of measures to support our youths in this regard:
a. On the jobs and careers front, as of end-April 2021, we have placed more than 110,000 locals, including graduates and working youths, into jobs and development opportunities under our SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package. MCCY and NYC are complementing these efforts by providing more diverse opportunities through initiatives such as our YouthTech Programme and our Youth Corps Internship Scheme.
b. On the financial front, our COVID-19 Support Grant, Temporary Relief Fund, and Recovery Grant, are available to youths in lower-to-middle-income households who lost their jobs or income, or had to go on no pay leave due to the pandemic.
- We are also supporting our youths’ mental well-being across all life stages.
a. In schools, MOE will enhance professional development on mental health literacy for all teachers and recruit more school counsellors where possible. Our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) are also committed to help ensure the mental well-being of students. For example, IHLs have professional counsellors to support our students, and refer students who require more assistance to mental health professionals in the community and hospitals. All IHLs also have an established peer support structure. For example, students look out for one another, offer a listening ear, and encourage peers in distress to reach out to a trusted adult for help. We will introduce peer support structures in all schools by end 2021.
b. In workplaces, MOM issued the ‘Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-Being at Workplaces’ to advise employers on how to better support their employees’ mental well-being, especially during COVID-19. MOM also launched iWorkHealth, an online workplace psychosocial health assessment tool to help companies better understand their employees’ state of mental well-being and stress factors at work. As of 3 September 2021, more than 180 organisations have registered for iWorkHealth, with more than 7,500 employee respondents.
c. In the community, we introduced online campaigns to educate our public on how to cope with stress and challenges and to encourage help-seeking behaviours. MCCY and our Health Promotion Board (HPB)’s “Brave the New” campaign, which ran from August to December 2020 helped individuals cope better and be more willing to seek help from others.
d. We have also provided our youths with mental well-being resources on Youthopia, our first-stop portal providing information and content. MCCY and NYC have partnered youth-led organisations such as Campus Psy and the Happiness Initiative to curate resources for our youths to learn tips on self-coping and resilience, as well as how to talk to and help others in need.
e. MCCY is building up peer support networks among youths in the community, beginning with a Community Peer Supporter programme by our Youth Corps Singapore (YCS), in collaboration with HPB. About 30 youth participants will be onboarded as part of the pilot by the end of September 2021.
f. In the wider community, youths can also seek help through a range of channels, such as 24-hour hotlines run by the Samaritans of Singapore and the Institute of Mental Health, as well as counselling services and social-emotional support provided by community mental health teams and Family Service Centres.
- We are also keenly aware of the impact of social media and online usage on our youths’ mental well-being.
a. On Youthopia, youths can find resources to navigate the online space safely, including how to respond to cyberbullying and deal with cyberwellness issues.
b. We are partnering tech companies to promote the positives while mitigating the risks of social media. This includes partnerships with Facebook and TikTok to equip our youths with skills to create social impact initiatives and online educational content on topics such as mental health stigma, cyberbullying, and exposure to harmful online content. We also worked with these companies to include local support resources for mental health and cyberwellness on their platforms.
c. As part of the Digital for Life movement, MCI has launched a Singapore Together Alliance for Action (AfA) to tackle online harms, especially those targeted at women and girls. The AfA brings individuals and organisations from multiple sectors together to close the digital safety gap.
- Our Government is committed to addressing mental well-being of our population, including our youths. Our new Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being co-led by MOH and MSF and chaired by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Health, brings together the capabilities and capacities of different agencies to develop a national action plan on mental health and well-being beyond COVID-19. As a member of this Taskforce, MCCY will work with MOE, MOH and MSF to support our youths.
- The challenge of youth mental well-being is broad, and we thus need everyone – government, our community, our youths, to play a role. So we invite partners to join us in this effort, and thank our many partners already on board this important journey with our youths.
1 Feeling anxious over future uncertainty (53%), stress over finances (41%) and worries over academic or work performance (39%) were youths’ top mental health stressors.