More women, families seeking help for mental health issues

Speakers of different faiths discussed mental well-being at the Singapore Muslim Women's Association's virtual Harmony Raya celebration yesterday, with Minister of State Sun Xueling officiating.
Speakers of different faiths discussed mental well-being at the Singapore Muslim Women's Association's virtual Harmony Raya celebration yesterday, with Minister of State Sun Xueling officiating.PHOTO: SINGAPORE MUSLIM WOMEN'S ASSOCIATION

Faced with the overwhelming challenges of work and family commitments in the past year and a half, more women and families sought help to deal with mental health issues.

Following the circuit breaker from April 7 to June 1 last year, the Singapore Muslim Women's Association (PPIS) saw an increase in clients seeking mental health support at their social service centres and Sym Academy, a practice academy specialising in family-focused work, PPIS president Hazlina Abdul Halim told The Sunday Times.

In response to queries, PPIS said the coronavirus pandemic brought relationship concerns to the forefront, with family members confined to the same space for extended periods, especially during the circuit breaker.

This led to women approaching PPIS to seek help on managing mental health or marital and familial relationship concerns.

Madam Hazlina said: "I hope women know they are not alone in facing mental health issues, and they need not be afraid to ask for help because there is help available."

In its annual Harmony Raya celebration yesterday, PPIS invited speakers from the Muslim, Buddhist and Baha'i faiths to share their views on mental well-being and mindfulness during the pandemic.

A Straits Times survey of 1,000 people in March found one in three people felt his or her mental well-being had worsened since the circuit breaker.

Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Education, who officiated the virtual event, that while many people have experienced greater emotional, psychological and financial distress during the pandemic, women were disproportionately affected.

Madam Hazlina said women juggle important roles in society, highlighting the need to support their mental health.

"A substantial number of women work full-time while balancing caregiving duties and other household responsibilities," she said in her opening remarks at the event.

"The already difficult act of juggling multiple roles is exacerbated during Covid-19, with many needing time to adjust to working from home and home-based learning."

But there has been a silver lining, with the increased awareness of the importance of mental health. Madam Hazlina said: "Never have we seen mental wellness come to the fore as it has right now."

To support the increased need, PPIS offers services available to all families.

Its Sym Academy offers therapy services for women and their families, and its Workspace Online programme provides live video calls with a therapist for employees in the same workplace.

Ms Sun also cited government resources available for Singaporeans under stress, such as the National Care Hotline, set up during the pandemic by Ministry of Social and Family Development with the support of the Ministry of Health.

Other government-supported helplines include those run by the Samaritans of Singapore and Institute of Mental Health.

Ms Sun also touched on other needs of women. With studies showing the local prevalence of maternal depression at 7 per cent during pregnancy and 10 per cent three months after childbirth, it is important to raise awareness of the issue, and look into how screening may be implemented to detect problems early, she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 06, 2021, with the headline 'More women, families seeking help for mental health issues'. Subscribe