SINGAPORE – Ms Danielle Grace Tan was 16 when she had her first panic attack, in the midst of studying for her O-level examinations.
However, conventional wisdom then was that young people do not require professional help, and three years went by before she finally did so.
She was eventually diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
When Ms Tan, now 25, heard last year about how a local charity had set up a team to help young people cope with mental health issues, she got in touch and signed up as a volunteer, as the aim of the unit resonated with her.
Shine Children and Youth Services’ new youth community outreach team ResiL!ence began in October last year and officially launched on Saturday (July 17) alongside Shine’s new campaign, “It’s the Mental Health for Me”.
ResiL!ence aims to raise awareness of mental health issues among youth, promote early identification, facilitate the help-seeking process, and seeks to involve parents and peers in young people’s recovery.
Mr Eric Sng, who heads the team, told The Straits Times that when the team started nine months ago, they realised the need for such services was greater than what they imagined.
He said: “Because of the pandemic, some young people have become more socially isolated and reserved.”
Many of their coping methods such as spending time with friends in person or engaging in interest-based activities, which may be therapeutic, are now compromised.
“They may feel alone and not know where to seek help,” he said.
This is where outfits such as ResiL!ence can help.
The team offers services such as mental health screening, basic emotional support, the forming of interest groups for those aged between 12 and 25, as well as caregiver support for young people’s caregivers.
Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth and Social and Family Development Eric Chua was the guest of honour at the launch held over Zoom.
In his opening remarks, he said: “Community-based programmes such as ResiL!ence, by Shine, are also key to our outreach to youths – they provide mental health services and encourage help-seeking behaviour while building mental resilience.
“We want to be an inclusive society where mental health is no longer stigmatised and help-seeking is normalised.”
Ms Tan, a film-maker, said she is thankful that such a programme exists for youth today.
She said: “As I was growing up, I also wished that there were some of these services and resources available. It definitely would have helped with my struggles.”
The virtual launch saw more than 170 participants, including social and youth workers, counsellors, school leaders, as well as young people and their caregivers.
The campaign launch was followed by a virtual panel discussion about how a culture for youth to feel safe in seeking help for mental distress can be created.
Mr Chua said during the panel discussion that more can be done to support existing efforts to mitigate the impact of mental health conditions in the community such as the Community Health Assessment Team, a national outreach and mental health check programme under the Institute of Mental Health.
“There’s plenty to be done, in terms of resources, the organisation of these resources, and having them better organised, so that the whole process of seeking out information and resources itself is not causing stress to the person who is seeking out help,” he said.