YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES IN A DIGITAL WORLD

Opening Remarks by Benedict Cheong, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Temasek Foundation at the Temasek Shophouse Conversations, 20 May 2022

20 May 2022

Good morning,

Dr Tan See Leng, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Trade and Industry;

Distinguished guests, esteemed speakers, panellists, and

Everyone joining us here in person or on-line.

A warm welcome to today’s Temasek Shophouse Conversations.

Last year, our conversations focused on future pandemics, climate action and also on building a healthier future for our families. Today, our conversation will focus on how we can enhance the mental resilience of youth in our communities. At the outset, let me thank KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital and Campus PSY for partnering us in this event.

Just to recap, Temasek Foundation’s programmes are driven by three strategic thrusts:

  1. Strengthening Social Resilience and Uplifting Lives;
  2. Fostering International Exchange and Enhancing Regional Capabilities; and
  3. Advancing Science for a Sustainable World.

Under the first thrust, as a priority, Temasek Foundation supports programmes that uplift the lives of the vulnerable and those that nurture our young people. To complement this, we also work with partners to run dialogue platforms such as today’s one. These help all of us to enhance mutual understanding of the key issues and prompt us to work collaboratively on innovative programmes based on shared perspectives.

Even before the pandemic, youth mental health was already an area of growing concern in our communities. The pandemic and our community response including online learning, the “circuit breaker”, safe distancing and other measures have clearly added to the complexity of the challenges faced by our youths and by the larger community.

To address this emerging area of concern, Temasek Foundation has supported the provision of online conversation and messaging platforms for counselling and care, such as the #chatsafe programme in partnership with Samaritans of Singapore and CHATline programme with the Institute of Mental Health. We also collaborated with MediaCorp to run a broadcast programme series to help parents, caregivers and peers of youths who face mental health challenges.

Besides the online counselling and care platforms for youths, we also collaborated with Lions Befrienders to use facial emotion analysis AI technology to assist counsellors in mental health screening and care planning for seniors. There is clear potential to apply this same innovation to support our youths.

As interested parties like all of us here continue to dialogue and collaborate, we can work out many more innovative solutions to address the issues that we face collectively. It is heartening to see so many others taking the initiative to support similar platforms. I think that we can look at three broad clusters of issues that we should continue our dialogues on, namely:

  1. Emerging issues such as the digital economy, the future of work, technology developments in a whole host of areas, (of course) mental health and well-being and so on;
  2. Enduring issues that continue to “plague” us despite our best on-going efforts, such as dengue and diabetes;
  3. Existential issues such as climate change and liveability, future pandemics, and perhaps, sustaining social cohesion in our communities affected by a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex Ambiguous (VUCA) world.

We hope that today’s dialogue will lead to greater understanding and collaborative action in the important area of youth mental health. By continuing the conversations beyond today and by sharing our learnings and experiences, research, and expertise, we can all play a part in enhancing the resilience of our future generation.

I look forward to learning with and from all of you. Thank you once again for joining us this morning.