As the world observes World Suicide Prevention Day, psychiatrist Dr Varma Deyalsingh says depression rates among children and young adults are on the rise.

Speaking on CNC3’s The Morning Brew, Deyalsingh said in addition to the stresses of schooling and socialisation, youngsters now have to cope with a pandemic that has ground the world to a halt.

“We would never know what is playing in their minds, whether its exams or a girlfriend or they could figure what is the sense of living in this world when COVID is going to stagnate the world? We don’t know what is going on in these children’s minds and we have found there is an increase in suicides in the younger population,” Deyalsingh said.

He said the issue that now arises is how to get through to those youngsters.

“I want to plead with the Ministry of Education to have some sort of depression assessment for our young children because I think if you can pick it up early, from SEA onwards, you could pick it up and get those kids into children support system, we could comfort them and give them the support they need to face the challenges in the world,” he said.

But youngsters are not the only demographic prone to suicide stemming from depression. Deyalsingh said with the uncertainty of the pandemic and job losses as global markets suffer the impacts of the pandemic, adults are also battling depression.

He said part of the awareness campaign to prevent suicide is to have relatives and friends take heed of when their loved one becomes withdrawn or shows any signs of severe depression.

Those signs include feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness, loss of interest in daily life or things they would have previously enjoyed, sleep disturbances, tiredness and lack of energy, reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain, anxiety, restlessness, slow or lethargic responses, difficulty concentrating and/or unexplained physical problems, such as persistent headaches or pains.

Deyalsingh said the pandemic has increased depression rates around the world.

He said consideration should be given to creating free spaces in communities where those suffering from mental health issues can seek guidance. He said those spaces should be manned by retired mental health professionals, who he suggested could be paid a small stipend by the Ministry of Health.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and having suicidal thoughts, please contact Lifeline, a 24-hour hotline, at 800-5588, 866-5433 or 220-3636 and seek help.