Singaporean youths are concerned about the issues surrounding mental health and their careers in the future.
This was the findings by members of the SG Youth Action Plan panel, tasked to engage with youths to craft a youth vision for 2025. Led by the Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann, the panel members engaged close to 400,000 youths and had deep discussions with almost 70,000 youths to hear their thoughts.
The key issues were also accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
SMS Sim Ann said: "We were glad that we started keeping tabs on this issue early on because in our polls with young people, mental health and mental well-being emerged as the number two concern - behind how the pandemic has affected their interactions with friends.
"Because we have opened up the subject, we have also linked up with youth activists in the mental health space. I believe we would be welcoming even more projects, even more awareness raising and also sharing of solutions that people can adopt to improve their mental well-being particularly among the youth."
Edward Chia, Timbre Group's co-founder and also a SG YAP panel member, added that the panel is focusing on developing peer support capabilities and peer support training among youths in dealing with mental health and mental well-being issues.
"Youths when they have an issue, they tend to want to talk to their friends first compared to knocking on the doors of the school counselor. They do note that they are so afraid of going to the school counselor because sometimes if their friends see them knocking on the doors, immediately they get stigmatised," said Edward.
"So we know youths most of the time when they have issues they tend to confide in their friend and when they do so, sometimes their friends might not also know how to react effectively and know what's a good first response."
Edward added that the panel also found Singapore youths to be very focused on their career, but may be lacking in terms of having the network to help them succeed.
This has proved to be crucial especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. With lesser job opportunities, it is crucial to know someone in the industry that can provide the right advice to help them succeed in the career path they chose.
"The connecting of young people to do job opportunities and, very importantly, mentorship are topics that we have already began supporting the youths on," explained Edward, citing the example of one such project under the SG YAP, Advisory, which has been very active during this period to connect young people with career advice and career mentorship opportunities.
"I think going forward this is going to become even more important because a lot of our traditional methods for young people to be connected with employment opportunities are going to be curtailed. You are not going to have physical job fairs or physical networking sessions.
"We have to give youths the opportunity to know more people and this will help jumpstart their careers. I think the youths who are graduating this year, will be of particular urgency in this part. We have done the groundwork in the past year to support youths."
Edward Chia (in blue, second from right) is part of the SG Youth Action Plan panel that engaged more than 400,000 youths.
All of the SG YAP panel members' work will culminate in a digital Youth Action Challenge (YAC) Summit that will be held in mid-July.
While details are still being worked on for the YAC summit, SMS Sim Ann shared that the panel is very excited as there are more than 50 teams and 250 youths that will be taking part. About $30 million have been set aside too in order to fund initiatives and the grant can be disbursed quickly for projects that need it, thanks to the fast-track process.
"We target to be able to disburse up to 50 per cent of the project grant that's applied for within seven days," she explained in a Zoom call with the media on Wednesday (May 29).
"The $30 million is set aside from our national youth fund and the idea is that for these projects applicants that are pursuing themes that we've highlighted under the action panel, including sustainability, care and inclusivity, they know that there is funding dedicated to this.
"I'm very confident there will be a lot of good project ideas that will come out… as long as there are good ideas, we are very prepared to listen and support it."
Edward added: "This is a major help to grant recipients' project cash flow. And this is something I recall panel members raised about and I'm hoping this could help more youths take action by easing their cash flow."
For those who have a project idea, they can apply through the National Youth Council, the body that will be approving the ideas.
SMS Ann believes that in the post-COVID-19 world, youths can lead the way for the country.
She said: "They have many of the skill sets that are coming into demand, for instance, digital capabilities. With the work we have been doing at the action panel, we hope that many of them will feel equipped and empowered to put their ideas into action, help themselves, help others.and help us navigate this post COVID-19 world."
For more information, please visit youthactionplan.sg
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PHOTOS CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL