The announcement of the circuit breaker extension on Apr 21 may have caused many of us to feel upset and anxious at the prospect of not being able to return to our normal lives.
But for many youths who suffer from, or are vulnerable to, mental health issues, the impact of the measures are far more significant.
To better understand why this period is particularly troubling to these youths, Youth.SG spoke to Asher Low, 33, the co-founder of Limitless. The non-profit organisation supports youth aged 12-25 with mental health issues through therapy, counselling, social activities and group work.
Asher recently won the Straits Times' Generation Grit Award 2019 for overcoming his own mental health issues and starting Limitless.
PHOTO CREDIT: ASHER LOW
Asher shared with us, in his own words, seven reasons why the circuit breaker may place us more at risk for mental health issues:
1. Increased isolation from being confined at home
There are plenty of studies linking the deterioration of mental health to being confined within a built space.
Being unable to leave our homes as many times as we used to may cause many Singaporeans to view our rooms as more like 'prison cells', which has negative impact on our mental wellness.
Beyond the physical space, social isolation is also linked to poor mental health.
Not being allowed to visit friends and family outside of our household removes our support system of friends, whether they are in Singapore or overseas.
Many of us may be experiencing 'cabin fever' as we are staying home for extended periods of time.
PHOTO CREDIT: NANDHU KUMAR VIA PEXELS
2. The loss of daily routines
Going outside to exercise, hitting the movies with friends, or having access to the gym are just some of the coping strategies that help keep people 'sane'.
While these seem like normal day-to-day activities for many of us, the loss of these activities may be destabilising for some youths who suffer from mental illnesses.
The ability to do these little things can stand in the gap between life and the thoughts that one should die.
Many of our regular activities, such as going to the gym or attending fitness classes, are no longer allowed due to the circuit breaker measures.
PHOTO CREDIT: ANDREA PIACQUADIO VIA PEXELS
3. Stuck in a toxic environment
Being confined at home is particularly troubling for youths who live in toxic environments.
These youths are now stuck with verbally, emotionally or physically abusive parents or family members and there's no way to escape (such as to school, work, or another family member's house).
Being in the same space also makes it more difficult for victims of such abuse to call for help.
Being in close quarters with abusive family members may be especially distressing for youths, who may find themselves unable to escape or call for help.
PHOTO CREDIT: IAN PANELO VIA PEXELS
4. Lack of alone time from family members
Most people do need their own space and time alone. Although we may love and enjoy the company of our family members, being stuck at home with the same people may breed irritation and contempt.
Simple things that may not usually be an issue can escalate to become a lot bigger. This is because people don't get to walk away, or process feelings of frustration or irritation in their own time.
This is exacerbated when communication within the household is not effective, or if there are already existing feelings of resentment towards another family member.
5. Being overloaded with bad news
Although staying connected and having access to the news is useful, constantly seeing and hearing bad news about COVID-19 across the world and in Singapore can breed strong emotions of fear, anger, and hopelessness.
Social media may make matters worse as it exposes people to distressing content such as videos or articles showing people dying from the disease (which may not be real in the first place).
This is especially troubling to people who may not have a high tolerance to such content.
Being constantly exposed to news updates about the virus through social media may heighten feelings of stress and anxiety.
PHOTO CREDIT: NAPENDRA SINGH VIA UNSPLASH
6. Responsibilities and challenges do not go away
Although many aspects of our lives have changed, our responsibilities still remain. Bills and debts still need to be paid, business deals or work projects are still time-sensitive, school projects still need to be completed, and national examinations at the end of the year will not be postponed.
For many, this disruption will make the mounting pressures from these responsibilities much greater, and some people will not be able to cope with the stress.
7. Having to adapt to a different work environment
Working from home may not be for everyone. Having our regular work routines taken away from us can be very stressful.
Working in bedrooms or at dining tables may sap some people of their productivity, which may lead to feelings of uselessness, worthlessness, or frustration.
We may find ourselves being less productive while working from home, causing us to feel stressed and frustrated at ourselves.
PHOTO CREDIT: JESHOOTS.COM VIA UNSPLASH
If you are facing mental health issues during this time, the simplest resource to turn to for help, would be your friends and family. Keep in contact, have heart-to-heart talks if needed, and spend time with one another.
If you do need more help, there are plenty of resources available:
- TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800 377 2252 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
- The National CARE Hotline: 6202 6868 (24 Hours)
- Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH): 1800 283 7019 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
In a crisis, contact Samaritans Of Singapore (SOS) at 1800 221 4444 (24 Hours)
If you're looking for more mental well-being resources and things to do this circuit breaker, do visit mehgowhere.sg.
BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: _MXSH_ VIA UNSPLASH
This is part one of a two-part series exploring mental health issues among youth during the circuit breaker. Stay tuned for part two!