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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

'I got my dreams crushed again'

Sulaiman Kamal | 9:02 PM | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Teen who fell to her death blogged about 'lousy' A-level results.

LIKE many other 18-year-olds, she went to school on March 4 this year feeling panicky and light-headed.
After two years of memorising facts and formula it was the day when her A-level results would be released.

Krystal Aki Mizoguchi, a half-Japanese, half-Chinese Singaporean student at Yishun Junior College, had one fervent wish - to make it to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore or the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Nanyang Technological University.

But when the anxious girl received her A-level results from her teacher, her world came crashing down.

With her grades, she could apply only to private universities but the option "had never crossed (her) mind", she wrote in her blog.

Two months later, on May 14 at around 7.40pm, she fell to her death from her ninth-storey flat at Ang Mo Kio Street 53.

Could the tragedy have been prevented?

Teachers here are trained to spot students at risk, said the Ministry of Education.

A teacher from a secondary school in central Singapore said: "Regular sessions are held with students and this is when teachers can identify any problems.

"We would raise the matter with someone at a higher level and refer the student to a trained counsellor if needed."

Click on thumbnails to view media. 
'So real'

In her last blog entry on March 5, Krystal wrote: "I got my dreams crushed again after seeing my grades yesterday. "I already predicted my grades but it felt so real when I saw the statement of results."

Psychologist Daniel Koh from Insights Mind Centre said teens have it worse now. They face more stress which can come from studies, peers and even social norms.

He said: "Previously, a teen is happy with just a pass. But now, just passing is not good enough. They need to be the best.

"When they cannot manage, the stress level goes up. And it becomes a vicious circle.

"They feel hopeless and helpless to do anything and this spirals into a bigger problem."

Socially too, teens have to cope with a lot of expectations such as having to be seen as fashionable and sociable.

An introverted teen would find it hard to fit in, he added.

In other blog entries, Krystal revealed that she was afraid of disappointing those around her.

She wrote on Nov 7 last year: "Everyone's been expecting me to perform well. I'd feel so bad letting so many people down if I got lousy grades.

"The possibility of failure makes it all the more foreboding.

"It would take a miracle for me to get decent enough grades for the big universities in Singapore. Why are my fellow peers such over-achievers?"

Krystal's parents divorced when she was very young, leaving her and her younger brother in their mother's care. The teenager's father, who is Japanese, works in Singapore. Her parents declined to be interviewed.

In her blog posts, Krystal seemed envious of her boyfriend's family.

"They are some of the nicest, sweetest, most wonderful, fantastic, awesome people I know," she wrote in a blog entry on Dec 8 last year.

Her boyfriend had also studied at Yishun Junior College. When his family took her to a hair salon last December, Krystal was "bursting with bliss".

"Because (his entire family) gets their hair cut at the same salon, they booked me an appointment at the very same salon.

"I felt so happy and pampered.

"I was rambling on to my boyfriend about how happy I was and that nothing could ruin my day," she wrote.

MOE: Schools have system in place

SCHOOLS here have a tiered-referral system to help identify students in need of early support, said the Ministry of Education (MOE).

A spokesman said that schools will work with the families of these students to extend help to them.

The tiered-referral system works by having teachers as its first tier.

The teachers are "trained to identify students who show signs that they are troubled and provide the necessary basic support".

The basic support includes "referring students to the second tier of support formed by the school counsellors". Every school has at least one trained full-time school counsellor, the spokesman said.

Complex cases

She said: "Complex cases are referred to the third tier of support, which can involve guidance specialists from MOE, mental health professionals at the Child Guidance Clinic (CGC) or the relevant social service agencies."

In cases of suicidal students, the causes are usually many and may include psychological issues, relationship problems with family and peers and study-related problems, she added.

To build resilience and promote mental well-being, MOE has been working closely with the Health Promotion Board and the CGC to implement this comprehensive approach:
  • Build protective factors in students
  • Identify at-risk students for early support
  • Refer students with more complex issues for appropriate medical and/or psychiatric intervention

The spokesman said that schools help students build protective factors by helping them "acquire a set of social and emotional competencies".

With this, they would be able to "understand themselves better, interact effectively with others and cope with life's challenges", she said.

The learning of social and emotional competencies are infused in curricular and non-curricular programmes such as language lessons, outdoor education and co-curricular activities, she added.

In schools abroad, such as in Australia or the US, teachers and students are educated on the signs and symptoms of at-risk students.

In more extreme cases, some schools in the US carry out regular suicide screenings.

Questionnaires are given out and students are categorised into varying levels of risk according to their responses.

Those with elevated or significant risk are referred to school psychologists or counsellors.

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