SINGAPORE: Every month, about 20 youths are identified as having early signs of psychosis —— a serious mental illness that causes hallucinations and delusions.
This is according to the Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT), that conducts free mental health assessment at a youth centre.
The youths are then referred for treatment.
In conjunction with Total Defence Day commemorated this week, the centre is urging the community to help beef up the country’s psychological defence by strengthening the mental resilience among youths.
Some common concerns which youths shared with counsellors at the centre are anxiety and conflict with family members and peers.
On average, the centre at SCAPE sees about 60 youths a month. About 30 per cent of them show signs of psychosis.
Around one in 50 people will experience a psychotic episode in his or her lifetime.
Dr Swapna Verma, chief of Early Psychosis Intervention Programme at Institute of Mental Health, said: "Psychosis is not that uncommon. About two or three out of every hundred young people will have a psychotic breakdown between the late teens and early twenties and because of the stigma, they don’t seek help readily so having services like this would encourage them to seek help."
CHAT was set up in 2009 to address mental health issues among those aged between 16 and 30.
The Singapore Mental Health Study conducted in 2010 showed 90 per cent of mental health issues emerged before the age of 29.
Chan Lishan, 30, said: "I went through a period of sensory deprivation. I took an enormous blanket and covered the window with it, to make it really dark. And then I took ear plugs and I wore it, and refused to hear anything. I was really paranoid and afraid of people and I just hid in my room all day. I got really compulsive in a way. Obsessive over things. I would continuously write statements — the same statements over and over again."
She has written a book about schizophrenia.
In 2007, Ms Chan was about to start her research scholarship.
She had rented a room from a family, as her parents were based overseas. But when her symptoms worsened, her landlord kicked her out.
She recounted: "I got lost, and I wandered into an old folks’ home and they called the police because I was trespassing. Then when they spoke to me they realised that something was strange and they decided to put me in the lockup for the night and send me to hospital for the next day.
"I lost a lot. I lost a scholarship, I was homeless. I lost a lot of friends because I quarrelled with them for no good reason. I lost my mind because I couldn’t focus very well."
Ms Chan has fully recovered and now spends her time writing and giving talks on her experience.
Experts say a multi—pronged approach is needed to help solve mental health issues among youths. This includes positive support from peers, families and the community.
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