YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES IN A DIGITAL WORLD

Session 3: Beyond Awareness: Greater Mental Health Support for Youths

20 May 2022

Earliest education starts at home and family plays a powerful role

Home is the start of relationships and where the earliest conversations between parents and children are had. Family is important upstream support. By the time mental health issues require medical intervention, it is already a downstream measure. Social policies and frameworks to help parents start purposeful conversations with their children are foundational. These are important to discovering more about what youths are thinking about and is the start of strong youth mental health. Children may not open up so easily, so parents must try to upskill and learn of the new technologies and digital worlds that the young are living in, in order to engage in meaningful discussion.

Multiple layers of support gives options and encourages help-seeking

In the community, sufficient layers of support must be made available to seekers of help. The Institute of Mental Health, although an important partner, should not be the only destination in mind. Mental health exists on a spectrum and not all issues on this spectrum require intervention and therapy. Other options include counselling, expression in safe spaces and being able to speak with someone. Community spaces do not need to be narrowly designed for mental health – spaces designed for activities such as reading, music and exercise are equally important in establishing relationships and contribute to mental well-being.

Schools and workplaces are important pillars of support

Studies by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development demonstrate that the education and well-being of the whole child is contingent on the relationship with family, teachers and peers. This data supports the development of mental health programmes and spaces where youths spend their time. In schools, there are programmes such as peer-to-peer support training, counselling rooms and safe spaces. Work is being done to expand the type of support services available and getting young people to verbalise negative emotions. At workplaces there is a need for better mental health literacy and new Human Resource policies and activities to demonstrate commitment. Human Resources, Heads of Department and line managers should be first in line to embody the spirit of strong mental health and well-being.