Dangers of Mental Health Issues Among Children in Singapore
Updated: Mar 14, 2022
There are many beautiful things about youth but growing up isn’t all a walk in the park. Children in Singapore and around the world face enormous pressures both at home and at school. Many factors such as peer pressure, puberty and stress related to academic achievement can contribute towards mental health problems.
This blog provides an overview of four of the most common mental health issues faced by children in Singapore and the warning signs you can look out for in your child.
According to a 2019 report published by Singapore’s Institute of Mental Health (IMH), around 2,400 children aged 18 months to 9 years old are diagnosed with depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders at the IMH every year.
Childhood depression can be caused by the following factors:
Medical conditions. A behavioural or mental condition such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or bipolar disorder can trigger depression or mood swings.
Stressful events. Changes at home or in school, such as being bullied or undergoing a divorce situation.
Environmental factors. A chaotic environment, such as a dysfunctional home.
Family history. Children of those who suffer from mood disorders or depressive episodes are more likely to have depression themselves.
Warning signs to look out for include:
Changes in behaviour, sleeping or appetite
Changes in personality – becoming more reserved or more boisterous than usual
Unexplained injuries such as cuts or bruises
Becoming socially avoidant and withdrawn
Sudden outbursts of tears or explosive anger
A sadness, lethargy or anxiety that will not subside
Toxic stress can cause major physical and emotional damage to a child’s body, affecting not only brain development but also the proper functioning of other organs. The full effects of stress might emerge immediately or years later. Yet, the enduring and often hidden nature of stress negatively impacts physical and mental health. A child might be doing very well in school but crumbling under the weight of academic pressure. He or she might become more withdrawn and start developing unexplainable chronic aches and pains. The widespread social and educational disruptions caused by Covid-19 is also a stress factor for youths.
Certain situations place your child at higher risk of developing stress-related mental health conditions. These can include:
Living in an unsafe environment (e.g. domestic abuse)
Feeling overwhelmed by schoolwork and academic expectations
Living in persistent poverty
Dealing with housing or money problems
Going through puberty
Some physical symptoms that might lead you to suspect your child is under a huge amount of stress include:
Headaches and stomach aches
Changes in sleep patterns or appetite
Emotional symptoms include:
Inability to control emotions
New or recurring fears
Aggression and stubbornness
Anxiety and worry
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, is one of the most common brain disorders experienced by youths in Singapore. It is not unusual for children to be active and impulsive with a short attention span. However this becomes a problem when there is a persistent pattern of such behaviours that negatively impacts a child’s functioning or development.
If you suspect your child might have ADHD, it is important to diagnose it early as this condition often continues into adulthood, affecting both performance and relationships. Some behavioural indicators of ADHD include:
Forgetfulness in daily activities
Has difficulty following instructions
Avoids or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require continuous mental effort
Easily distracted by external stimuli (e.g. a background conversation, a car honking)
Excessive running, climbing or fidgeting in situations where this may be inappropriate
Difficulty keeping quiet
Addiction is the condition of being addicted to a particular substance (drugs, alcohol, inhalants) or activity (gambling, gaming, sex). Addictions often get progressively worse over time and can even be fatal if left untreated. Youths are at higher risk of developing addictions as they are more impulsive and less able to consider the negative consequences of their actions.
Smartphone addiction is also commonly treated at healthcare facilities even though it is not officially classified as an addiction by health authorities like the World Health Organisation.
Some signs of addiction include:
Persisting in the activity despite negative consequence
Inability to cut down or stop the activity
A need to increase the frequency of the activity to achieve the same effect
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if the activity is discontinued
It’s Never Too Late to Seek Help
At MindChamps Allied Care, we provide comprehensive child therapy services and parent coaching to help support and empower children and their families in Singapore. It might be tempting to brush off mood or behavioural changes in your child with the thought that he or she is just “going through a phase”. Yet, behavioural changes that cannot be explained could be signs of deeper mental health issues like depression, high stress, ADHD and addiction.
It’s never too late to seek help, but the earlier these conditions are managed and treated, the better. The physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of youths must be safeguarded to give our children the best opportunity to fulfill his or her potential in life.