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S’pore’s Mental Health Task Force works with social media platforms to mitigate cyberbullying

SINGAPORE — As young people spend much of their time on social media like Twitter and Instagram, and messaging platforms like WhatsApp, an inter-agency mental health task force is working with tech platforms on ways to promote positive online practices.

Speaking at the launch of a citizens’ panel on youth mental health on Saturday morning (March 19), State Minister for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling said the inter-agency health task force Mental Health and Wellbeing will also seek to develop practical solutions to mitigate online risks, such as cyberbullying.

The task force, formed in July last year, is refining its recommendations and will seek public input over the coming months to develop a national mental health strategy and action plan.

It is also looking at ways to make mental health services more accessible and reduce the stigma of seeking help, said Ms Sun, a member of the task force.

Set up by the Ministries of Health and Social and Family Development, the task force oversees mental health efforts here, focusing on issues that require interagency collaboration.

The citizen panel will hold seven online sessions and involve approximately 50 Republic Polytechnic attendees to brainstorm ways to build mental resilience in young people. They are organized by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and funded by the Ngee Ann Kongsi Charitable Foundation.

Ms Sun, who is also Minister of State for Education, told the Straits Times: “Students are using social media to interact with each other and during the pandemic more than ever. It has become an important channel for them to keep in touch with their friends. and organize themselves around causes that are close to their hearts.

“But social media can also become a place where there are echo chambers, where hurtful and inappropriate comments are made, and there’s a lack of interventions and moderation of that content.”

Since the start of this year, senior high school students across the island have completed a new character and citizenship education program that addresses cyber-wellness issues.

He hopes to instill in students the need to be respectful and considered in their online comments, to recognize cyberbullying, to be a source of support for one another, and to work with trusted adults when encountering hurtful incidents, Ms. Sun said.

Along with a focus on creating a healthy online culture, the task force will also find ways to reduce help-seeking stigma and make mental health services more coordinated and accessible, a- she declared.

This can include ensuring support is channeled to where it’s needed most and attracting more partners into the “ecosystem”, she said.

“It can also mean more training for our mental health professionals, our practitioners and also our peers,” she added.

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