Forum: MOH adopts multi-pronged approach to support those in crisis

We thank Mr Delane Lim for his letter and agree that early identification and encouraging help-seeking are vital for suicide prevention (Equip people with skills to be 'life gatekeepers', Sept 5).

Suicide is a complex and multifaceted issue. A whole-of-society approach is necessary to build mental resilience to prevent suicide.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) adopts a multi-pronged approach to suicide prevention based on four key strategies - building mental resilience, encouraging help-seeking and early identification, supporting at-risk groups and providing crisis support.

We also develop appropriate interventions for various junctures of life to help and support those at risk.

To build mental resilience, the Health Promotion Board conducts mental well-being programmes and workshops for students and working adults. These initiatives aim to teach individuals how to cope with stress and distress emotions.

The Samaritans of Singapore also runs programmes on identifying suicide warning signs and where to seek help.

The Ministry of Education has trained teachers and staff to identify signs of distress in students, monitor their well-being, and provide support alongside school counsellors. Students who need further support are referred by school counsellors to the Response, Early intervention and Assessment in Community Mental Health teams for mental health assessment and intervention.

All schools have peer support structures to teach students how to look out for one another and encourage a peer in distress to seek help from trusted adults like parents, teachers and counsellors.

In the community, young people can tap the outreach and support group Community Health Assessment Team, which offers easy access to mental health resources and help via different avenues for those between 16 and 30.

The Institute of Mental Health's Crisis Response Team, which started last year, responds to calls from the Singapore Police Force on cases of suicide attempts. This multi-disciplinary team assesses suicidal individuals on-site and connects them with appropriate intervention and follow-up management. The team picked up an average of 32 calls per month from March 2021 to October 2021.

Recognising that suicide prevention requires multi-sectoral efforts, we have established the Inter-agency Research Workgroup on Youth Suicides to study the issues surrounding youth suicides and to facilitate deeper collaboration among agencies.

MOH will continue to work with the various stakeholders to ensure that we provide holistic support for persons in crisis.

Jeannie Tey (Dr)

Director, Health Services Integration and Development

Ministry of Health

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