Bullied and ignored in sec school, I was once even nearly committed to IMH

By lucielkun27

After reading about the murder of a 13-year-old boy at at RVHS, I felt powerless and depressed. My friends were worried — I always get affected by incidents like these. Especially so, when:

- My friends' friend committed suicide 2 weeks ago.

- Multiple teachers telling me that their students committed suicide during a recent dialogue.

- Ashlee's case.

- A suicidal girl who penned a letter to PM Lee.

- Last but not least... My case that went under the radar: bullied, misdiagnosed and denied an education.

The one thing that ties all of these cases together is the fact that mental health is a very real problem that is sadly going unnoticed in the larger MOE system.

Too many cases. Too little action. After much consideration, I decided to reveal my story here to show the harsh reality of cases that fall through the cracks of the system, i.e. outliers. This is going to be a long post, so bear with me.

My story

I attempted suicide back in 2011. Why? Because I was bullied by my classmates for the way I looked and talked. Yes, you heard it right; you can get bullied for being too ugly. Some also undertook a cyberbullying campaign attacking me, which my school simply dismissed as "you're being too sensitive" and "how can you be so sure they are talking about you".

I slowly developed depression which I eventually came to know as social anxiety. I also had a severe phobia of school that led me to skip classes most of the time. If I were to somehow attend school, I would actively avoid eating at the canteen because I was afraid of being bullied by my peers. I will spare you guys the details, and instead highlight some of the treatments I received - things that no school should ever do unto their students.

- Once, out of desperation, I wrote an essay about suicide for my English exam in 2012. Rather than receiving help, I was mocked by both teachers and students alike in public. Parts of my essay (regarding my suicide attempt) were read aloud in class and folks had a real good laugh about it.

- My school maintained the stance that mental health conditions do not exist and that it was all in the mind, and I was merely making life difficult for various teachers.

- I suffered a panic attack that made me hurt myself publicly. My teacher summarily dismissed the affair, insisting that I was just seeking attention.

I eventually came to view my school as a prison. The people there did many, many things that severely impacted my state of mind. There was no way out, especially with my traditional family upbringing believing that "the school is always right". Fast forward to 2014, my teachers used physical force to "coax" me into a room for some small chat. (Yes. They actually used those words.) Seeing that they refused to let me approach the school counselor, I called the police out of self-defense and begged for them to intervene. The school counselor subsequently blamed me for making matters worse, despite having not helped me a wee bit throughout my journey. On the other hand, the principal, who had always maintained that I was just a rebellious student and had no mental health condition, informed the police that I was mentally unsound and they need not come down to the school.

I was ultimately forced to sign a contract that essentially banned me from mentioning the incidents that took place in school, in addition my handphone got confiscated. As I refused to comply, I was barred from entering the school premises altogether and had to remain isolated at home.

Was there any support rendered during my secondary school journey?

Before I continue, I would like to mention I did try seeking help from different avenues. Anything I could think of, I tried. Teachers. Counselors. Social workers. Family Service Centre. IMH.

Thanks to my school's actions and the inexplicably myopic focus on the negative effects arising from computer gaming back then, IMH purposefully diagnosed me with gaming addiction and declared that I had no legitimate mental issues. I vividly remember this conversation with IMH’s psychiatrist to this day:

"So are you saying that I got bullied because of my supposed gaming addiction?"


"And gaming addiction caused me to feel depressed?"


They even wanted to have me involuntarily committed for gaming addiction. As a 14 year old, it did not make sense to me. Was I going crazy? Was I the one at fault? All these thoughts just flooded my head, thus leading to the outbreak of several panic attacks thereafter.

My school even succeeded in getting IMH (REACH) to convince my family to apply for a Beyond Parental Control order against me. Meanwhile everyone, including social workers and counselors just stood by and did nothing. Classmates from the "neutral" faction chose to play dumb for fear of repercussions. I was essentially cornered with nobody to turn to, and I began to fall into despair. Life became meaningless for me.


Someone from MOE called to verify my principal's claim that I chose not to attend school. When I mentioned to her that I was barred from entering, she sounded tremdously alarmed. After recounting in full what actually transpired, she immediately arranged to have me transferrerd out so I could complete my GCE 'O' Levels, albeit a year later. The new school also treated me badly but it no longer mattered; I had already lost any semblance of hope. It was therefore not surprising I ended up faring rather badly, obtaining an L1R5 aggregate of 25. Given my education records were unconventional to say the least, I required assistance from a social worker and medical doctor to qualify for polytechnic studies.

Long story short, I continued to be discriminated against in my polytechnic. Some lecturers looked down on me, while others denied me opportunities because of their ingrained prejudices. My peers also shunned me and spread false rumors. However, I remain grateful to the small handful of lecturers and friends whom I met that believed in me, as they gave me strength to step out of my shell and move forward little by little. I did well despite the odds, however that's another story for another day.

I still struggle with PTSD, having recurring nightmares that are somewhat worsening of late. I still encounter (many) people who take delight in mocking and gaslighting me upon learning about my background. I have come to expect this of the older generations, but It's very disheartening to witness even youths these days actively denying a person's narrative.

"Anyways you have made it, all else is moot."

"If anything this proves that those who did not survive were weaker than you."

No, just because I survived does not undo sufferings of the past. We need to stop patting ourselves on the back when someone "miraculously" pulls through. No one should have to endure what I did all by himself. Period.

My plea to fellow Singaporeans

After that long wall of text, this brings me to a plea to you guys.

It is very easy to write someone off as a villain without attempting to understand what went on behind the scenes. While we have of late been pushing for changes to raising awareness of mental well-being, this is very much a work in progress. There are still many out there who belittle the mentally ill, and even now, reckon that those plagued by mental health conditions are outright "insane" or not deserving of a place in our society.

As I have often mentioned to friends, "it's only when something happens to themselves or their loved ones do they truly appreciate the impact of their actions and the importance of mental health." I do not want us to take a reactive approach. Prevention is better than cure — let's not wait for yet another major tragedy to strike for us to finally take action. Check in with your friends from time to time. Provide a listening ear. You do not need to be a trained professional to be a good friend. Sometimes, all they need is your sincerity and willingness to be the shoulder they can rely on.

At the same time, systemic changes need to happen in order for our youth to receive the relevant help that they so deserve. We need to move beyond mere virtue-signaling and start having the uncomfortable discussions - the real conversations needed for change to take root. Schools must be held accountable for their actions, and MOE needs to acknowledge the full extent of prevailing mental health disorders and actively take steps to improve the situation. One youth lost to the system is one youth too many.

For others who are struggling, please... seek help. Find a professional whom you can confide in. I know it sounds ironic because of what I went through, but bottling everything up and keeping to yourself can be harmful in the long run. If you do not trust school counselors that’s fine; there are other organizations out there such as Limitless and Fei Yue that provide therapy and/or counselling services. Always remember: do not lose sight of who you are. Do not give up on yourself. Keep believing in Hope. After all, what is hope but our never-ending belief and perseverance in rewriting our fate to change things for the better?

Thank you for reading this. Admittedly I can be idealistic at times, nevertheless I sincerely hope that we can work towards building a more compassionate Singapore, where outliers need not be entrapped by the constant fear of public stigma. My prayers are with the families of both RVHS students; may they find peace during such troubled times.


RVHS alumnus once sat in a school toilet with knife in hand, ready to end his life

I am experiencing depressive episodes and having suicidal thoughts

Mind drawing a blank after trying to kill myself