Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Education (a) what levels of confidentiality are school counsellors obliged to maintain vis-a-vis the students they counsel; (b) in what circumstances do counsellors inform the students’ teachers and/or parents about their findings during counselling sessions; (c) whether these sharings will have an impact on the students’ school-based leadership opportunities; and (d) what is the Ministry doing to put students more at ease about seeking counselling at school to address mental health issues.
Mr Chan Chun Sing: Observing confidentiality of information is key for school counsellors to maintain trust with their students. Before counselling begins, they will inform students of the limits of confidentiality. For example, school counsellors may need to communicate with parents and school leaders should there be concerns with student safety (i.e. harm to self and/or others).
School-based leadership opportunities are extended to students based on multiple factors, including their qualities, past participation, and interest. Students who undergo or have received counselling are not excluded from leadership opportunities if they meet the selection criteria.
Schools have taken steps to raise awareness and facilitate access to counselling services. First, students learn about common mental health issues and the importance of help-seeking through lessons in the refreshed Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum. They are also taught to be accepting and empathetic towards those struggling with mental health issues, and to alert their teachers to peers who need counselling support. Second, information on counselling services in school and beyond are availed to students and parents through various communication platforms.
Whilst school counsellors have an obligation for confidentiality to their students, they also need to take into account their need for parental support. School counsellors will continue to work closely with teachers and parents to promote positive help-seeking behaviours amongst students. Students are assured that seeking counselling help is a natural means of coping with their mental health issues.
Ministry of Education
1 August 2022