MP Carrie Tan’s speech during the debates on MOE’s Budget
Mr Chairman, the number of teen suicides have increased in recent years, and depression and anxiety are emerging increasingly as real struggles amongst our youth.
Mental health issues often begin during school-age years, especially during and after puberty. Stresses and confusion brought by physiological and hormonal changes add to the fray, at a time when young people are honing their self-worth, and trying to form their own self identity. Bullying, conflicts amongst friends and social exclusion present themselves in the school environment which is where children spend the most time. It logically follows that mental health education and support must also start in schools.
Teachers and students often notice small changes in thinking and behaviour in their peers and an individual before a major episode happens. Learning about early warning signs and taking action can help – and may even prevent mental health struggles from morphing and worsening into mental illness.
When society risks losing young lives to mental health struggles, educators need to understand and nurture our young through their challenges in holistic manners. And perhaps having a trauma-informed care approach to understand the context of students’ experiences could be one way.
Educators can benefit from understanding the ways that trauma can appear in children’s lives and some of these include poverty, peer victimization, family violence, racism, homophobia and lately what has come to public attention, transphobia.
I would like to ask the Ministry of Education, what are its current strategies to strengthen mental health support in schools, and how is it equipping teachers and staff and to consider the above suggestions.