A study done in 2021 has found that from 2013-2018, there was a greater increase in youths diagnosed with depression as compared to adults and seniors. This could be the cause of extensive efforts to educate and increase public awareness on mental illness, encouraging more individuals to reach out to seek help. There are also increasingly more social interventions that aim to tackle youth depression.1
How and why do youths take the first step to seek help? Friends play an important role in supporting their peers in their mental health. Thus, it is key that youths are surrounded by good company that they can connect with on a deeper level, provide non-judgemental support and can feel a sense of belonging. Apart from peer support, proper care and resources should also be allocated to supporting youths in their mental health journey.2
In the preliminary findings of a survey part of the Singapore Youth Epidemiology and Resilience Study, it was revealed that for every 3 youths, 1 will report having mental health symptoms such as anxiety, loneliness and low moods. The study also showed that youths aged 14-16 had lower resilience scores compared to individuals in other age groups. However not all is bleak as the study revealed that having positive self-image and cultivating relationships are factors that can help youth combat thoughts of suicide and self-harm.3
There is a need and an opportunity for BCS Youth Connect to make a difference, so how can we nurture the next generation of youths?
A real issue youths face when it comes to talking about mental health is the stigma that comes with it. When people talk about getting help, they are often met with challenges such as being looked at differently, or even labelled as being crazy.2 Family members are unsure of how to react and end up belittling their mental health struggles or making insensitive comments. Friends and family may also end up giving unhelpful advice in their attempt to help, instead of lending a listening ear and empathising with their struggles, which is how they had hoped they would respond.4
Bless Community Services aims to bridge that gap and equip our staff, volunteers and youths with the knowledge on how to journey with those struggling with mental health issues. We also want to cultivate a caring, nurturing and safe community for the youths to be able to share their struggles and victories. Through the safe and supportive space at BCS, we hope the youths will develop a positive self-image.
Good support from peers as well as other resources that can provide targeted and effective support is key to managing youth mental health. Bless Community Services strives to create a safe and supportive environment for our youths to develop their potential. We will be building an integrated Seniors and Youth Hub in 2023 which enables us to conduct a myriad of programmes for our service users. It will provide seniors a place to hang out, exercise and cook in the mornings. In the afternoons, youths can come to use the gym for exercise, kitchen to cook and bake, do arts and crafts and other programmes.
We would like to have more programmes and activities for the youths to attend to develop their self-image and confidence. When they are able to learn new skills, they will feel a sense of achievement and even give back to the community.