Do more to increase mental health literacy

It is disheartening to read that many people in Singapore feel uncomfortable in the presence of people with mental health issues or to be associated with them (Many still steer clear of people with mental illness: Poll; Sept 9).

Mental illness is stigmatised and people are not able to approach it as they do physical health.

To say that we are not feeling well in terms of mental health invariably gives rise to misconceptions, prejudice, discrimination and misinformation while physical health issues are treated as legitimate and normal.

The question we should ask ourselves is how we can, as individuals and as a society, overcome this strong stigma.

People agree that more needs to be done to wipe out misconceptions relating to mental health so that individuals with such problems can be accepted into society.

The need to increase awareness about and destigmatise mental illness has never been greater.

Already, programmes have been implemented in schools so that teachers and school counsellors working in concert with mental health professionals can identify such illnesses in students.

Coping mechanisms should additionally be developed to help students hone self-esteem, concentration and crisis management skills, and understand how "feeling bad" can affect physical health. Among other things, students should be encouraged to be involved in social and cultural activities so that they do not isolate themselves and worsen their condition.

Adults, on their part, should encourage their family, friends and troubled youth to seek help and impress upon them that they are worthy individuals with much to contribute towards society.

It is imperative that more is done to improve mental health literacy and reduce the stigma of seeking help for mental illnesses in Singapore.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2018, with the headline 'Do more to increase mental health literacy'. Print Edition | Subscribe