SINGAPORE - A national mental well-being campaign has been launched to normalise talking about mental health issues and to equip all Singaporeans with the skills needed to support their family and friends.
The Health Promotion Board (HPB) on Saturday (Oct 30) launched It's OKAY to Reach Out, its inaugural mental health campaign comprising 130 programmes, including workshops and dialogue sessions that will take place between next month and March the following year.
It will be complemented by the late-November roll-out of an online portal providing nationwide mental health resources called MindSG, with content curated by doctors and psychologists.
The portal is developed by HPB and the Government, along with mental health experts, and was one of the recommendations the Covid-19 mental wellness task force made in August.
Dr Janil Puthucheary, who chairs the task force and is Senior Minister of State for Health, and Communications and Information, said the campaign was about creating a "national narrative" that includes both those who need help and those rendering it.
"We want to encourage two groups of people - the individual to reach out for help but also the people who are listening, your friends, your family or loved ones who can offer help. It's okay to reach out and ask, are you doing all right? Is there anything that I can do?" he said.
"Most Singaporeans are happy to seek help from family and friends, peers, people they trust, so we want to leverage that and put the skills and understanding into the hands of their friends and family so that when people are seeking help, it is from people who have some confidence."
The National Population Health Survey in 2019 found that only half of all Singaporeans are willing to seek help from a professional, but that three in four are ready to get support from informal support networks such as from a friend, relative, colleague, religious leader or teacher.
Mental well-being among Singaporeans aged 18 to 74 had already declined pre-Covid-19, the survey also found.
Dr Janil said: "It's different having social media around you all the time. You have a very different environment and the expectations have changed...and suddenly Covid-19 has been a huge stress test on our mental resilience, our whole psychological readiness, both individually and as a society."
"The response both from our mental health professionals as well as community groups and volunteers has been heroic. People have come up with all kinds of efforts to connect and to support, to volunteer and to find out how they can do something in mental health."
More than half of the young people polled by the National Youth Council last year said that mental well-being was a challenge for them, while older Singaporeans also reported a stark increase in feelings of isolation.
In a sign that mental health issues are taking more lives, the number of suicides also reached 452 last year, the highest figure since 2012, with rates increasing across all age groups.
Ms Joanna Chan, group director of programmes at HPB, said people should talk about mental health as they do physical health.
"Living healthily encompasses all aspects of our health - both mental and physical well-being," she said. "The It's OKAY to Reach Out campaign aims to normalise conversations around mental well-being and its importance to healthy living."
The campaign includes a series a series of engagement talks in all 17 GRCs, hosted with community partners. The organisers will also make sure that the outreach is catered to all Singaporeans, including those who do not use online media or speak English.
The MindSG portal can be accessed from late next month at this website. It will first target adults, focusing on self-care and mental well-being topics such as sleeping well and how to manage emotions and stress.
More topics and features for the public will be added in time to come, HPB said.
• National Care Hotline:
1800-202-6868 (8am - 12am)
• 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:
• Silver Ribbon Singapore:
• Tinkle Friend:
1800-274-4788 and www.tinklefriend.sg
• Community Health Assessment Team:
6493-6500/1 and www.chat.mentalhealth.sg
• TOUCHline (Counselling):
• TOUCH Care Line (for seniors, caregivers):
• Care Corner Counselling Centre: