Here are the numbers: 13.4% of Singaporeans suffer from poor mental health, 1 in 2 Singaporeans are unwilling to seek help from professionals when they are constantly unable to cope with stress, and 1 in 5 youths reported poor or very poor mental well-being.
These are data collated from the Ministry of Health Population Health Survey and National Youth Council between July 2019 – March 2020 and February – October 2021 respectively. They reflect the growing predicament of mental un-wellness in society.
In response to this, the People’s Action Party (PAP) had earlier announced the #BetterTogether initiative on 30 April to call for greater awareness of mental health issues and urge collective action to uplift one another in our society.
Led by Minister Chan Chun Sing, Minister of State Sun Xueling and Member of Parliament (MP) for Jalan Besar Dr Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah, #BetterTogether strives to champion mental health literacy, support and destigmatisation of mental health, while reiterating PAP’s commitment towards building a resilient Singapore.
PAP’s youth wing Young PAP will also be roped in to bolster the Party’s efforts through surveying perspectives, collecting feedback and engaging in mental health dialogues. Through these, the Party hopes to consolidate ground concerns and proposals for legislative and policy changes.
A recent mental health survey conducted by Young PAP in March reflected that 73.31% of survey correspondents did not feel equipped to support someone struggling with their mental health. 53.21% of survey correspondents expressed concerns sharing about their mental health problems openly with others. While only 607 Singaporeans were involved in the preliminary survey, the results corroborated with past national surveys.
“Mental health is a deeply personal issue — this is especially so for youths who may also be struggling to build healthy self-esteem and form new friendships,” Dr Wan Rizal says. “This might lead to the fear of being judged or perceived differently by their peers if they were to share about their mental health struggles. Such negative interactions can reinforce the belief that people are alone in their mental health struggles and result in them being less willing to share.”
Dr Wan Rizal is no stranger to being a mental health advocate. The MP, who once recounted his experience coming across a suicidal person back in his days working in the Civil Defence Force, has been spearheading discussions in mental wellness. Last year, he led a group of 18 MPs from PAP in a #452TooMany campaign—in reference to the highest number of lives lost in 2020 amid Covid-19 since 2012—to raise awareness of and kickstart conversations on mental health concerns.
Dr Wan Rizal shares more with SNCF on the #BetterTogether initiative.
Dr Wan Rizal: When it comes to mental health, youths today face challenges unique to their generation. Social media has become an integral part of their lives, and it can be used for good, facilitate conversations or connect people together. Yet, it also posits several downsides, such as the prevalence of cyberbullying. The threats and derogatory comments that linger on in the social media space are examples of online bullying.
We may also fall prey to this unhealthy social comparison with others as we scroll through our social media feed. These can impact our self-worth and self-esteem, and in turn, lead to deep psychological impacts – such as anxiety, depression or eating disorders.
Dr Wan Rizal: The reasons for not sharing vary among individuals. I believe these reasons largely stem from the stigma and lack of understanding of mental health. More than 90% of the survey respondents concurred that the effects of mental health illnesses are often undermined or dismissed, with 70% attesting to these incidents.
Dr Wan Rizal: Through #BetterTogether, we hope to create greater awareness of mental health issues and call for collective action to uplift one another in our society. A common thread shared amongst the participants of the roundtable was the importance of building a network of trust when it comes to dealing with mental health issues.
All these point to the importance of improving the accessibility to equip those in the community with mental health resources to readily provide help when required. Often, they are the first lines of defence against mental health struggles.
Dr Wan Rizal: A key tenet of #BetterTogether is to showcase how everyone can play a part in advocating for and destigmatising mental health. We can all take small steps to help reduce the cultural barriers and stigma around mental health, such as educating ourselves and others on mental health topics.
Dr Wan Rizal: Simple acts of care and understanding are good ways to begin. You can also consider joining and supporting community groups and programmes that serve to reduce cultural barriers and stigma.
On the topic of community partnerships, we recently worked with Chuan Pictures and Apiary ice creamery. Through these partnerships, I hope more organisations and individuals, especially youths, are inspired to lean in and play a part in driving collective action for mental health while creating a strong societal support network for all.
*This interview has been edited for clarity.
Check out Health Hub’s community mental health support portal MindSG here.
Check out Temasek Foundation’s mental wellness support portal My Mental Health here.
National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868 (8am - 12am)
Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788
By Sng Ler Jun