Is it not a question filled with regret and sorrow? If only……

If only we saw the self-harm scars she quietly concealed within the folds of her pinafore, if only we bothered to check up on her after she skipped school for months on end, if only the last time we saw her wasn’t in the obituary section of the Sunday Times……

Our indifference to the fragility of the human condition has cost us dearly. If there is one thing is ripe for change in Singapore, it is our lack of compassion. In a society shaped by meritocracy, we have developed tunnel vision, refusing to notice others’ troubles as we ourselves go from strength to strength. Singapore may be a fast-paced society no doubt, but we should not forget the mental anguish of others as they face the relentless pressure of days.

Youth are at risk, and the evidence is irrefutable: One in 17 people in Singapore have suffered from MDD at some time in their lifetime and the majority of the mental illnesses occurred by the age of 26 years. Worse, majority of the people with mental illness are not seeking help, frightened by stigma and shame.

The spectre of mental health issues hangs over us, but it does not have to. Troubled youths are not difficult to find. It is important that they are provided the support they need, before they turn to intoxicants, gangs or self-harm as emotional crutches. What they need is pity, concern, human empathy, not holier-than-thou and high-handed comments about the weakness of the current generation.

There is no easy way to say it. To the self-righteous, I say: “Get off your high horse. Or we will lose them, one by one.” There is no time for conceit; anxiety and depression wait for no man. We must open our eyes and see the demented as helpless prisoners of their own minds, not lazy oafs. We must dismantle the cold, materialistic culture that a competitive meritocracy has fostered if we are to save the lost. Our children, Singapore’s future, is at stake.

Mental illness is my personal cause, but it is also a universal one, and when it succeeds, the question filled with regret and sorrow, will be met with an answer of hope and goodwill.

This is a clarion call. If I could change one thing, it would be our callous indifference to kindly hearts of gold. For it is a change long overdue.