More youths seeking help with mental health – but finding it isn’t always easy

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SINGAPORE: After surviving secondary school without close friends, introverted teenager Poh Zhi Nan vowed to “be a new person” at junior college.

He said hello to everyone, dated different people. But like any teenager searching for identity, he asked himself, ‘Who am I? Why am I trying so hard to be this open-minded person I’m not?”

Before he could find a new rhythm, however, the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and schools switched to home learning. Without face-to-face interactions and support, Poh became increasingly anxious, stressed, and began imagining worst-case scenarios.

He tried talking to his parents about getting professional help – but they thought he was obsessed. They subjected him to an exorcism ritual that traumatized him.

“There are no mental health issues for her generation,” said Poh, now 19.

Things didn’t improve when in-person classes resumed. He began having panic attacks and was hospitalized, where he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

That’s when he decided to put his mental well-being first – and made the “unglamorous” call for a break from school.

He also knocked on several doors and reached out to a few public hospitals and private healthcare providers before finding a treatment environment and team he was comfortable with.

Poh wasn’t alone in his battle against mental health demons — or in his quest to get help and be better understood.

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