Turn culture of fear of mental illness into culture of acceptance

We empathise with what Ms Julia Abdullah had to endure, and admire her courage in sharing her experiences (Fear of ridicule stops people with OCD from seeking help; Feb 28).

We understand that it takes a lot of strength for those who suffer from the societal stigma and insensitivity surrounding mental illnesses, to come forward to speak about their challenges openly.

Most often, this stigma is rooted in fear and ignorance.

As highlighted by the World Health Organisation, the image of mental illness is incorrectly associated with images of violence and laziness, rather than with suffering, marginalisation and denial of basic opportunities.

While the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) is seeing more people seeking help for themselves or for their loved ones, there remains a greater need for education and a stronger collective support from the wider community on mental illnesses and overall mental health awareness.

We recognise that, often, many are ill-informed on how to manage and relate to those with mental illnesses.

SAMH is pushing for change through its Mindset Learning Hub - a training and supported employment centre for Persons-in-Recovery (PIRs) - which adopts a multidisciplinary approach.

We work with PIRs on their vocational training and employment needs, through individualised learning and employment plans, and also provide training and talks to employers to equip them with the right tools and knowledge.

Ultimately, employers have the opportunity to change this climate of fear surrounding mental health at the workplace and turn it into a culture of acceptance.

By addressing mental health issues in the workplace and investing in mental health care for workers, employers can increase productivity and employee retention.

With the Government's focus and efforts towards community mental health, SAMH, being the first community mental health agency focusing on supporting PIRs in the community, is optimistic that together with other partners and agencies, mental wellness for all will become a reality.

Tan Li Li (Ms)

Executive Director

Singapore Association for Mental Health