Efforts to bolster mental well-being amongst youth take centre stage at NUS Social Service Research Centre’s annual conference

More inclusive strategies and earlier intervention to bolster youth mental health were the centre of discussion amongst close to 800 social service practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and healthcare professionals who attended the SSR Conference 2024 both online and in person at the National University of Singapore (NUS) today.

Organised annually by the Social Service Research Centre (SSR) at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), the theme of this year’s conference was “Youth Mental Health Landscape: Upstream Prevention and Downstream Intervention” and dedicated to addressing the psychological well-being of youths and help them thrive in their adolescent years.

Participants, who represented more than 100 organisations, including social and family service centres, voluntary welfare organisations, government ministries, academic institutions and businesses discussed research and engaged in dialogues on prevention and intervention strategies, including digital initiatives and other innovative approaches, to improve mental well-being and resilience amongst youth in Singapore.

They included representatives from the Institute of Mental Health, the National Council of Social Service, SHINE Children and Youth Services and Fei Yue Community Services, amongst others.

Guest-of-Honour, Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Health, delivered the keynote address at the event.

Dr S. Vasoo, Emeritus Professor from the FASS Department of Social Work also delivered the introduction speech on how key players in mental healthcare can further collaborate to provide better protection for youths with mental health conditions in Singapore.

In addressing mental health issues, whether for the young or the old, he said that “the curative approach now delivered by social service agencies needs to move towards early intervention.”

The full-day conference featured three panel sessions that covered mental health intervention programmes such as mindline.sg and the Hidden Youth Intervention Programme, and research findings from presentations on digital peer support training in schools, arts therapy for children, and more.

The variety of presentations from government, academic, and social service organisations provided a comprehensive understanding of the different roles of mental healthcare professionals, practitioners, caregivers, and patients themselves in mental health service delivery. The panellists also discussed how these stakeholders can work collaboratively to create more safe spaces to empower youths who are experiencing mental health struggles.

Associate Professor Eddie Tong, Director of SSR and Associate Professor at the NUS Department of Psychology, said, “I believe we are in a unique juncture in our nation’s history where there is broad consensus that some of our youths need help and we need to help them. Having a conference on youth mental health is timely and we cover a range of key themes from risks and protective factors to prevention and intervention strategies.”

Associate Professor Mythily Subramaniam, from the Institute of Mental Health and the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, who presented at the conference said, “Changes in youth mental health are taking place against a more challenging backdrop of global upheavals like the COVID-19 pandemic, wars, and climate change. Thus, a deeper understanding of their impact on, and co-development of interventions with, youths are important to ensure better support to this vulnerable population.”