More than 800 consulted on how to improve mental health here

Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary (in white) at a small group engagement session at Care Corner's Woodlands headquarters on July 25, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - More than 800 people have taken part in public consultations on a task force’s preliminary recommendations to improve the mental health of Singaporeans, giving feedback that was “generally constructive and positive”, said the Ministry of Health.

They included youths, parents, healthcare institutions, social service agencies, employers, as well as people with mental health conditions and their caregivers.

Since May 30, close to 400 have given their feedback through an online survey on the government’s Reach portal, while over 400 participated in small-group engagement sessions, such as the one held at Care Corner’s Woodlands headquarters for staff and volunteers of social service agencies on Monday (July 25).

The 12 preliminary recommendations by the Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being span three main areas – improving access to quality mental health services, strengthening mental health support for youths and improving mental health at work.

Social workers at Monday's session said they welcomed the suggested solutions.

Ms Christabelle Shalini Ilankovan, a senior clinical executive at Silver Ribbon Singapore, said the recommendation of having a few first-stop touch points for mental health support would fill a gap. 

These touch points could be a hotline or a digital resource that one could easily access.

She said she has referred clients to different agencies, only to have them come back to her saying they did not receive help there. 

“Having this (first-stop) system... makes it easy for us and our clients, so we don’t have to go back and forth, and clients won’t bounce from one person to another,” she added. 

Mr Joe Tan, manager of the integrated case management services at Care Corner Seniors Services, supports having more trained staff and volunteers at agencies who can help people with mental health issues, so that those in need – especially the elderly – can receive a “one-stop” service.

“I think that sometimes, stepping forward to seek help can be quite daunting, and I think providing this approach allows people to seek help in a more timely manner,” he said. 

Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary, who spoke to 17 front-line workers and staff of social service agencies at the session on Monday, said a few gaps remain in current mental health services. For instance, emergency rooms and the Institute of Mental Health bear a disproportionate burden of cases which could be eased by spreading the load to trained staff and volunteers at social service agencies and other organisations. 

“If we can move upstream – provide resilience, earlier counselling and intervention services, then we don’t have to force everybody to come for crisis intervention. We can have a much more controlled approach,” he said. 

The public consultations will end on Aug 7, with the taskforce to publish its report next year.

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