Teen suicides in Singapore

Kudos to Talking Point for bringing up the taboo topic of teen suicides. (Video playback link is at end of page)

I will be honest, I am not comfortable discussing this topic (or even Mental wellness) to my kids simply because I lack the knowledge. There are too much social stigma and stereotypes associated with mental illness, and it is not helping with the recovery process.

teen suicides singapore

Teen Suicides are more common than we would like to believe. We read suicides reported in the media, we see friends who are depressed, and sometimes kids who feel disappointed because they could not match parents’ expectations (sad but true).

As a society, Singapore still deem suicide a taboo topic, some religions deem it a sin. It is a topic which no one (especially parents) hopes to broach. Parents might even deny that their child needs help.

Childhood years should be about play, memories and “some” studies. Death and suicide should not be on kids’ minds at such a tender age. That is my own assumption, based on my own bochap (carefree) childhood.

But statistics seems to indicate otherwise.
In 2015, there were 27 teen suicides reported.

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A few points from the forum resonated with me, and challenged my parenting style and beliefs. Some parents in the audience might need to validate our assumptions and expectations again :

– I had joined the Talking Point Forum as a concerned parent. Every suicide is one too much.
– I was curious to find out whether suicidal symptoms can be detected earlier?
– Do I really understand my kids? Do they behave differently at home and among peers?
Are they happy?

– Is my parenting style too strict or too relaxed? (dilemma!)
I practice Tough Love at home, and I am not proud to admit that I cane the kids. I always feel sad when I have to discipline the kids. But I always make it a point to explain why a child needs to be disciplined.

** You will never go wrong with this. Reinforcing to the kids (both words and intentions) that we love EVERY ONE of them, and FAMILY is always there to support them

talking-point-panel

Introducing the panel:

1) Yen Lu‘s (R) son took his own life at the age of 26. We cannot even contemplate how devastated a parent will feel at his own child’s demise 🙁

The audience benefited a lot from Yen Lu’s selfless sharing. He kept emphasizing “Listen to our kids, spend more time with them, and let them know family and kinship is everything“. He started OvertheRainbow to help more people.

2) Irene Ang is always known for her loud and comical front. But she attempted suicide not once but thrice in her teenage years! Since dying is so “difficult”, she thought it makes sense to spend more effort to solve her problems.

Since then, her mission is always to help and influence more people to think positive. “Can we prevent Teenage Suicides?” is a very serious topic, but Irene with her self-depreciating jokes was able to break the ice for us. Questions came fast and the whole session was lively and fruitful for everyone.

To see Irene seated next to Yen Lu feels surreal. Irene is very vocal and Yen Lu is chill. In their own ways, they touched the audience, and we were encouraged to raise some deep-rooted questions.

3) Dr Ong Lue Ping (2nd from L), Principal clinical Psychologist from IMH.
He is the expert and Dr Ong talks to your brain. Personally, I prefer Irene and Yen Yu’s styles, they speak to your heart and stir your emotions.

Different personalities and background experiences, but all truly belief that CHANGE must first come from within. Thank you panel speakers for such an insightful session!

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Some of the take home message and thoughts for myself.

The panel shared some of the common causes of suicidal tendencies.
Depression can be triggered by external factors such as broken family, relationship issue, bullying, low self-esteem and even studies stress (58% of deaths are related to mental illness)

Normally, we can detect and pickup the differences in a child’s behaviour and habits, temperamental etc.
But perhaps we sometimes brush it off as a passing phase, how many of us bother to offer a listening ear to a colleague, neighbour or relative?
(Yen Lu would always emphasized LISTEN with our Heart)

Suicidal thoughts do not occur overnight.
The worse things parents can do are to show a lack of empathy, to be judgmental or even trivialise the issue.

How many of us parents were “Angels” when we were young :p

We should never neglect our child’s Voice, perhaps our child might not even know they need help or consultation. (Irene highlighted that a snowballing of multiple factors over a period of time can tip us into depression)

Personally, I suspect kids are growing up too fast. Their body might be developed, but are they psychologically mature? We adults learn about problem-solving or re-focusing when we hit an issue, but kids might not have this skillset yet. Perhaps we can equip kids to handle and detect stress?

Today’s drama serials and computer games are full of violence, and deaths are portrayed very visually. Even subtitles might not censor violent terms.

Can we blame the kids if they grow up believing that death and violence is part of everyday life?
Some might be led to believe that death offers an easy way out!

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We also pickup parenting tips in the forum.

– When we help others, we are helping ourselves. Yen Lu shared 4 golden advices to help with the healing process :

a. Spouse must not blame each other
b. Acceptance, and move on
c. Find a meaning in life
d. Helping other people

(Pardon me if I miss the exact wordings).

– Let our kids have their own dreams, do not let them live out parents’ unfulfilled vision
– Encourage kids not to give up HOPE
– It is ok to fail, we Asians tend to treat failure as a shame, but we should teach ourselves and our kids to learn to pick ourselves UP after every failure

* Parents should drop their career Titles (CEO, Doctor, Professor, Principal etc) at home.
Be a DAD/Mum to your child at home, be Present in their lives.

Yen Lu mentioned we are a right-brain society, and we should teach our kids to FEEL with our hearts.
– Help our kids find their Passion and Purpose in life.

If ever we need assistance, these are the hotlines and channels available. Never give up HOPE!
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We are actively engaging our kids in sports, and I hope this will toughen our kids and improve their mental strength and resilience. Sporty Family, Strong Family.

Do pop by OverTheRainbow to find out how they are reaching out to society and helping us to understand more about mental wellness.

*updated 20161108* Tapestry Project shares first-hand information from persons suffering from Mental illness

Fellow Parenting thoughts on the topic of suicide :
– Winston BlogFather
– David LifesTinyMiracles

** Toggle playback link

Are you a racist?

Are you a racist? Am I a racist?

Channel News Asia (CNA) and Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) conducted a nation-wide race survey recently. The results are “revealing and eye-opening”. Link to Survey

The recent CNA documentary “Regardless of Race” was insightful, with Dr Janil asking some direct race questions.

Not really no-holds-barred, but we got some frank and perhaps “unsettling” responses. Think about taboo topics, stereotypes, and racist insinuations.

* Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, and the content reflected on my blog represents only my own opinion *

I had the opportunity to share my own viewpoints on Talking Point this week (Video Toggle link, from 13 minutes 20 seconds onwards)
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Race discussions can be sensitive and easily taken out of context.
Channel news Asia IPS race survey 1

During Racial Harmony Day, kids would don different costumes to school, reflecting Singapore’s multi-cultural society. But is this once a year event enough to teach our kids about racism?
Channel news Asia IPS race survey 2
(Images from CNA IPS survey)

As a parent, I am always trying to find the right opportunity to share why Singapore’s racial harmony should not be taken for granted.

I had previously blog about why racism will remain in Singapore, and to pretend otherwise borders on hypocrisy (blog link). The survey results showcase some undercurrent, which we cannot deny, but should try to understand more. Sweeping our “fears of engagement” under the carpet, just because we feel topic might be insensitive, would not help to clarify anything.

We should not be afraid to discuss Racism with our kids, we just need to find teachable moments to impart the right values (and respect).

The challenge is everyone is using different yardsticks to define racism.
We might feel we are not racists but our actions and behaviour might project another angle.
In other words, I can be a racist without realising it!

I do not really endorse the term Racial “Tolerance”.
After 50 years of independence, surely Singapore must have move beyond tolerance?
I am actively educating and talking my kids to embrace and celebrate Singapore’s multi-cultural diversity.

Most of us believe that kids are colour blind and non-judgmental.
Kids play together, become best friends simply because they enjoy each other’s company.
It is only after they are influenced by external environment (perhaps parents and peers) that they start exhibiting racist behaviours.

Personally, I belief that we should teach kids the right values when they are still young and impressionable. Parents are their role models.

Growing up, I did shared that I have buddies from other races that we were comfortable to tease each other with some racial jokes.
No malice, no ill will, we “disturb” each other because we know each other well.

Times have changed, and it is more “sensitive” to tease each with racist jokes nowadays. I am not saying that it should be recommended, but Singaporeans used to gel a lot easier then.

Society is getting more complex as Singapore gets more cosmopolitan.
Mixed marriages, Chinese from China, Indians from India, our cultural melting pot is growing bigger with more ingredients.
I would assume the cooking recipe is now more elaborate and harder to master.

One of the survey results indicate that it is ok to have friends from different races, but the same correspondents would not encourage marriage out of their own race. (The image below indicated that only 20+ percent of Chinese correspondents would accept non-Chinese son or daughter in law.)
CNA IPS survey
(image credit CNA IPS survey)

Why is this mentality still existing in the 21st century?

I have always advocate for mutual affection and love as the basis for a marriage. Neither skin colour, race nor religion should obstruct Love.

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There are many more example in the “Regardless of Race” series of videos, and some findings might make us uncomfortable, but these are all happening day in day out.

1. Regardless of Race” segments are asking Singaporeans to re-evaluate our position or racial harmony. Can we do more? Can we care more and move forward together as an inclusive society?
(Video link)

There are two segments within which makes the most impact on me.
When Dr Janil interviews the P3 students, their replies are frank and direct, and it makes me realise that racial harmony is always a process.
It is not just reciting the Singapore Pledge, but living our pledge.

2. I am a parent myself, and kids should not face discriminatory remarks in school, or worse engage in bullying of others (Video link)

3. Dr Janil ask questions and participants step infront or behind. The end result shows Chinese members in the front, suggesting that Chinese (Singapore’s majority ethnicity group) do enjoy more “privileges” in Singapore. Video link.

I am actively teaching my kids to embrace and treasure Singapore’s multi-cultural scene.
Where else can we find different places of worship co-existing together harmoniously?

We recommend fellow parents to visit Little India, Kampong Glam and perhaps even participate in a place-of-worship orientation (eg Ramadan at Sultan mosque).

Look for teachable moments, focus on the Positive aspect of race relations.
Be it adults or children, be open and we can all agree to disagree.
If it is any consolation, it is easier to talk about racism compared to sex education :p

Regardless of Race, Language and Religion.
Let us strive to live up to our Pledge.

Additional details :
– Full CNA IPS Survey results
– Talking Point panel discussion (Toggle link)
(Start from 13 min 20 seconds)
Onepeople.sg promotes Racial Harmony in Singapore
– Related Channel News Asia articles, Part 1, 2 and 3.

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