man hangs his head in sadness while on the phone

While teen angst is a part of growing up, not all youths are equipped with adequate coping abilities. Some may plunge into a debilitating state of depression. It doesn’t help that youths of today have to deal with increasing competitiveness both at school and work, and rising pressures to keep up with perfect appearances on social media such as Facebook or Snapchat.

Depression is the most common mental illness in Singapore, and 1 out of 17 Singaporeans will have exhibited depression symptoms at least once in their lifetime. If you are a concerned individual with a peer or loved one fighting youth depression, how can you help?

Related: Coping with Depression

Changing Our Help-seeking Behaviour

 

Even though most of us don’t think twice about visiting a doctor for an ailment like the common flu, people dealing with depression symptoms tend to take much longer to seek help. This is because people with depression or their immediate family may not actually be aware that the signs and symptoms point to depression. They may even think that it is a phase that will pass with time or that they will eventually “snap out of it”.

Then there is the social stigma of depression and mental illness. While many high-profile people such as Stephanie Sun, Mavis Hee and Yvonne Lim have stepped out to talk about their battles with depression, it still remains a topic that people avoid discussing in public for fear of coming off as unstable, unreliable or weak. De-stigmatising depression begins with the understanding that depression is a medical condition much like the stomach flu or even a chronic illness such as hypertension, and people who have depression do not choose to be afflicted. Raising awareness and educating people will help create a mindset shift and change the cultural norm.

Related: Myths and Misconceptions about Depression

Establishing a Safety Network

a young chinese child consoling her friend 

Recognising that those afflicted with depression have difficulty getting help, the onus is often on their support network to recognise depression symptoms and help them overcome it. There are ways to cure depression and early intervention is one of the keys to effective treatment.

Related: Building a Supportive Network of Family and Friends

Family

three generations of asian family women sitting together

The first port of call is often family. As they live in close proximity, parents and siblings should be the first to notice any marked changes in behaviour, personality or appearance of their loved ones. As family members are closest to the person with depression, they tend to also have the most influence to initiate treatment and encourage those afflicted to get help.

Related: 7 Habits of Highly Resilient Families

Friends and Peers

two malay teenagers console their friend while sitting on a staircase outdoors

If a buddy of yours has turned down one too many invitations or has been acting out of character, it could be cause for concern. More so if that friend has confided in you that he or she has had trouble sleeping or has been feeling in a low mood. If they have been increasingly absent from work or school, do raise a red flag and have a conversation with them. Acquaint yourself with the signs and symptoms of depression so that you can recognise them in your close friends.

A project recently started in Singapore called ‘HappYouth’, trains young people to cope with emotions in a crisis and to reach out to friends with mental health issues. Youth leaders are trained to become positive mentors and happiness ambassadors to help their peers.

School and Work

two students studying together in the library

Chronic or severe absenteeism from school or work is a clear sign that something is amiss. However, people with depression often can still go through the motions and show up for their work obligations. Being a place of daily contact, education institutions and work organisations are in the next best position to recognise depression symptoms and encourage treatment.

However, the stigma surrounding mental illnesses remains strong and many do not talk about their depression for fear of jeopardising their jobs or, for job seekers, a potential job. In particular, those in positions of influence, such as school personnel and employers, should be equipped with basic mental health literacy to manage and support students and employees with mental health concerns.

Related: Learn to Deal with Peer Pressure and the Media Influence

Support from the Community

a group of asian teenagers of mixed races sitting together

With the social stigma tied to mental illness, people with depression often seek help anonymously, turning to counselling services or hotlines available. There are also many support groups available to help those afflicted and their caretakers to deal with the disorder.

Related: Find Help - Services for Mental Health Support

How You Can Help Personally

asian mum hugging her daughter 

Here are some practical ways with which you can help a loved one overcome depression:

  • Encourage them to get appropriate professional help.

  • Support healthy living habits such as:

    • Exercise — physical activity aids in relaxation and one will feel more positive if one is fit.

    • Exploring interests — pursuing hobbies helps one to break the monotony and also encourage relaxation.

    • Going on a break — taking some time out can help one to get out of a rut and return feeling more refreshed.

  • Be patient, understanding and empathetic.

Related: Be Active for a Healthy Mind

Helplines

Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT)
6493-6500

Samaritans Of Singapore (24 Hours)
1800-221-4444

Singapore Association For Mental Health
1800-283-7019

Touchline (Touch Youth Service)
1800-377-2252

Care Corner Mandarin Counselling Centre
1800-353-5800

Mental Health Helpline (24 Hours)
6389-2222


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References

  1. Health Promotion Board. (2005, Aug). Fight The Blues [PDF].
    Retrieved June 2016 from http://www.healthhub.sg/sites/assets/Assets/PDFs/HPB/Mental%20Health/HPB%20-%20Fight%20The%20Blues.pdf

  2. Chong, S. A., Abdin, E., Vaingankar, J. A., Heng, D., Sherbourne, C., Yap, M., et al. (2012, Feb). A Population-based Survey of Mental Disorders in Singapore. Annals of the Academy of Medicine, 41(2), 49-66.
    Retrieved June 2016 from http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/41VolNo2Feb2012/V41N1p49.pdf

  3. Teng, A. (2015, Dec 28). Rising trend of self-harm among the young. The Straits Times.
    Retrieved June 2016 from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/rising-trend-of-self-harm-among-the-young

  4. Tai, J. (2016, Apr 9). Youth on board for mental wellness drive. The Straits Times.
    Retrieved June 2016 from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/youth-on-board-for-mental-wellness-drive

  5. Community Health Assessment Team. (n.d.). Depression [Website].
    Retrieved June 2016 from https://www.chat.mentalhealth.sg/get-the-facts/depression/