Implement policy changes to complement mental health campaigns

As a public health professional with an interest in mental health, I am happy to see the recent Singapore mental health campaigns shared online (Looking beyond the label; Sept 10).

I am also happy that next year's President's Challenge will focus on helping those with mental health issues (President's Challenge 2019 to focus on mental health issues; Oct 5).

By and large, these contribute positively towards public education.

In addition, it is also great that these campaigns are situated in the Singaporean context because culture has a significant influence in managing mental health.

However, while the state endorses busting mental health myths, I do hope that it also addresses such issues from a more distal level, such as through policy changes, rather than by solely providing support on a proximal level, such as through campaigns to increase awareness of mental health issues.

An example of an effective change would be instituting policies that address stigma in the workplace.

Many individuals with mental health issues face such challenges, which can have a long-ranging impact - from day-to-day discomfort to being rejected for a job due to one's mental health condition.

An example of such an intervention would be to role-play. Although the research evidence surrounding this type of intervention varies in quality, it does have potential and policymakers should follow its development closely.

They could also conduct intervention-based research in selected organisations to guide future policymaking.

While campaigns by themselves have positive outcomes, research suggests that their effects might not be long-lasting.

This is why it is critical to also implement distal-level changes to complement proximal-level initiatives.

Chow Zi Siong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2018, with the headline 'Implement policy changes to complement mental health campaigns'. Print Edition | Subscribe