National Care Hotline for psychological first aid received more than 45,000 calls since April last year

The Covid-19 pandemic will continue to pose a challenge to the mental well-being and health of the population.
The Covid-19 pandemic will continue to pose a challenge to the mental well-being and health of the population.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The National Care Hotline, which provides psychological first aid and emotional support to those who dial in, has fielded more than 45,000 calls since it was set up in April last year.

Revealing these numbers at a conference on Saturday morning (Aug 14), Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary added that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a stress-test of the country's mental health and healthcare systems.

"This pandemic will continue to pose a challenge to the mental well-being and health of the population, since the impact is likely to last for some years to come," he said.

Dr Janil was speaking at the Asia-Pacific Mindfulness Conference, which featured a series of local and international experts sharing their views on topics such as mindfulness and mental well-being.

The virtual conference, held over a two week period until Aug 29, was organised by mental wellness charity Brahm Centre. More than 6,000 people from 59 countries signed up for the event.

One topic that came up frequently in discussions on Saturday was the pandemic's impact on Singaporeans' mental well-being.

For instance, a series of polls by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) found that although Singaporeans’ quality of life has generally improved since last year’s circuit breaker, anxiety levels have largely been “sustained” since.

These polls were carried out at three points - during the circuit breaker, in September last year when Singapore entered phase two of its reopening and about three months ago, said NCSS chief executive Tan Li San.

Most of this anxiety was related to employment and finances, she said, adding: "Even as we move into the endemic (phase), there are a lot of concerns about the future. Therefore, it is much more critical that we take care of our mental well-being, and mindfulness practice is one way to do this."


Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary (top row, third from left) and speakers at the Asia-Pacific Mindfulness Conference 2021 on Aug 14, 2021. PHOTO: BRAHM CENTRE

Associate Professor Angie Chew, who is Brahm Centre's chief executive, observed that many people - from healthcare workers to teachers and students - are experiencing a great deal of stress.

She emphasised the importance of learning good coping techniques, adding: "If there isn't an approach or technique that can help us calm our minds, that's when we experience burnout, insomnia, depression, anxiety and many other mental health conditions."

The centre has received more inquiries on its mindfulness courses since April last year. It trained more than 23,000 people last year, marking a threefold increase from the year before, Prof Chew said.


Getting help

National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868 (8am - 12am)

Mental well-being

Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service: eC2.sg website (Mon to Fri, 10am to 12pm, 2pm to 5pm)
Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928/6509-0271 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (Mon to Fri, 2.30pm to 5pm)/ Tinkle Friend website (Mon to Thu, 2.30pm to 7pm and Fri, 2.30pm to 5pm)

Counselling

TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800 (Daily, 10am to 10pm)