One month ago (on 19th July 2021), a tragic incident took place at River Valley High School. The news was completely unexpected and devastating to the nation.
A young student on campus was murdered by a fellow schoolmate.
The 13-year-old student was found by the police, immobile in the toilet with multiple wounds on his body.
Subsequently, a 16-year-old student was arrested in relation to the death. An axe was also seized as evidence, the weapon used to cause the death of the innocent younger student.
While many speculated that the two students knew each other, it was later revealed that they did not know each other.
It is difficult to make sense of this entire situation and grapple with everything that has happened. The entire incident feels unreal and so tragic, we wish it was only a nightmare. But it is real. These are my 3 key takeaways from this incident.
A tragedy of this magnitude affects the whole nation, not only the direct family members of the two boys or those close to them.
It is hard to find words that can sufficiently describe the grief. There is also no explanation, no reason, no faults, and no blames.
In this dark time, we need to remember that we are not grieving alone.
There has been an outpouring of condolences and comforting messages online and at the campus, left by members of the public, school administrators, political figures and even the president and prime minister.
A time of inter-generational prayer has also been called for by an independent group of praying parents from churches across the country
People across the nation shared the grief and the pain.
The sudden passing of a son, brother and friend leaves a heartache no words can heal. But we can all play a part. Let us be kind and compassionate to one another. And let us reach out to our friends and loved ones to let them know they matter to us.
It is in such times that our friends and network need us so much more. And being there for them today plants the seed for our own endeavors tomorrow.
We can be more proactive in reaching out to those who are hurt, showing them care and inspiring their discouraged hearts.
If you are struggling, please know that you are not alone.
Also know that it doesn’t mean that if you feel like you’re struggling, that you are weak.
It is okay to not care about what other people think.
It is okay to feel sad, weak, vulnerable. It is all part of life and it is okay to seek help.
We are just human, and we are in this together.
We all matter.
Ethan, the Secondary 1 student from River Valley, was laid to rest on 26 July 2021.
His father played the song ‘Scars in Heaven’ at his wake – an emotional song with lyrics that reflect his sentiments towards his son’s passing.
Ethan’s parents have extended their forgiveness to the parents of the 16 year old boy who caused Ethan’s death.
This is a truly respectable act as forgiveness is never easy.
It takes a lot of strength and courage to forgive the person who has hurt us.
But the fact of the matter is forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves, regardless of whether or not the person apologizes to us.
Henry Cloud, a psychologist said ‘Forgiveness is something that we do in our hearts; we release someone from a debt that they owe us. We write off the person;s debt, and she no longer owes us. We no longer condemn her. She is clean. Only one party is needed for forgiveness: me. The person who owes me a debt does not have to ask for my forgiveness. It is a work of grace in my heart.’
Withholding forgiveness and seeking revenge would lock us into a never ending cycle of anger. Forgiveness offered us the ability to regain control.
Forgiveness is a decision and a process.
Mental health issues are important and real. It is a topic that should not be downplayed or brushed aside. Just because we can’t always see the damage on the outside like a physical wound, wounds in a person’s mind and heart do exist.
There may be mental, emotional burdens that maim us on the inside long before a hand is raised or a weapon is wielded.
Being a student in this day and age is very different as compared to earlier generations. They are presented with much more complex theories to learn at a younger age, and in order to excel at all the subjects, they stress themselves out and sacrifice sleep. Student suicides and bullying often go unreported and undetected, violence occurs in schools more than we realize. Young male students sometimes even face the brunt of ‘toxic masculinity’. All these aspects contribute to a highly stressful environment that young teenagers are not ready to deal with, hence bringing them to their breaking points.
Another less conspicuous aspect that may add on to the stress? Teachers. As surprising as it may sound, not every teacher is compassionate and truly wants the best for their students. Some things that they say can truly cut and hurt students. Youths are suffering internally or dealing with their problems differently. We often don’t realize or do anything about it until it’s too late.
All these may or may not have anything to do with the tragedy at River Valley High School.
However, the reality of the unhealthy, high pressure environments our children are growing up in will continue to present itself to us. They are not often taught ways to release or deal with all that built up tension, and it will usually be too late when we start seeing the effects this has on them.
And the stigma from mental illness will only make it worse.
Being diagnosed with mental illness can be a confusing time for both the person and the loved ones. Having additional support throughout this trying period can help to alleviate some of their worries.
Do you know that we are the first in the market to have a policy that covers mental well-being? If a person is diagnosed with one of the prominent mental illnesses such as Major Depressive Disorders or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the policy will pay an additional coverage amount. If you are keen to find out how this plan works, you can speak to me.
During times like these, we should reach out to those we take for granted – to do something for them to remind ourselves what we are here for.
And to look to ourselves to ensure that this never happens again, so that our children can be safe in schools, at home, wherever they go.
No parents should ever experience what the parents of the two students experience.
We live in such a fallen world, full of broken people and sometimes we just get caught in the crossfire.
There may be pain in the night, but do know that joy comes in the morning.
Together we will overcome.
If you are feeling distressed, or know someone who seems troubled, get help immediately. Talk to somebody. Here are some helplines:
National Care Hotline: 1800 202 6868 (8am-12am daily, from 1 Sep 2020)
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800 221 4444
Institute of Mental Health: 6389 2222
Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6385 3714
Tinkle Friends (for children): 1800 2744 788
TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800 377 2252
My mission is to educate and empower people to design their lives so that they can live in abundance.
Let me partner with you, to design and nurture your dreams and ultimate life goals.
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