New initiative launched to help dispel stigma, misconceptions about mental health

The Beyond The Label Fest at Gardens by the Bay saw about 1,500 people take part in mental-health themed carnival games. ST PHOTO: SYARAFANA SHAFEEQ

SINGAPORE - Public attitudes towards people with mental health issues have improved over the years but there remains some disquiet about those with such conditions.

In a study of 2,000 Singapore residents, researchers found that four in 10 people were willing to live with a person with a mental health condition, slightly better than three in 10 in a 2017 study.

The 2021 National Council of Social Service (NCSS) study also found that about one in five people were “frightened to think of people with mental health conditions living in residential neighbourhoods”.

However, public perception has improved in some areas – seven in 10 people agreed that people with mental health conditions can fully recover, up from six in 10 in a similar study done in 2017.

To double down on efforts to create greater awareness against mental health stigma, a new initiative was launched on Friday by President Halimah Yacob.

The Beyond the Label (BTL) Collective also aims to overcome distrust and create better support at the workplace for those with mental health conditions.

"There needs to be greater awareness that mental health exists on a spectrum. We should not erroneously associate criminality or violence with mental health conditions, as this is rarely the case," said Madam Halimah.

"We must encourage early help-seeking and intervention so that mental health conditions can be better managed, and individuals can thrive despite their condition."

She added that there is also a need to dispel the shame and stigma of seeking help.

The BTL Collective, led by NCSS and Touch Community Services, will bring together 26 partner organisations, such as Samaritans of Singapore and Care Corner Singapore.

Among the objectives of the partnership is helping to equip the public with skills to support those with mental health conditions and implementing workplace adjustments to support such employees.

The Beyond the Label Collective also aims to overcome distrust and create better support at the workplace for those with mental health conditions. ST PHOTO: SYARAFANA SHAFEEQ

NCSS chief executive and co-chair of BTL Collective Tan Li San said everyone at home, in schools and at workplaces has a role to play in building an inclusive society.

"All of us will likely experience mental distress in one form or another, at some point in our lives. Some will experience it much more acutely than others," she said.

"It is therefore important for us to take care of our own mental health, look out for those around us and encourage those who need professional help to seek it."

The initiative was launched at the Beyond The Label Fest at Gardens by the Bay.

The event saw about 1,500 people take part in mental health themed carnival games. They also caught performances by local artists.

Chief executive of Touch and co-chair of the BTL Collective James Tan said that proactive community support is important to overcome challenges preventing those with mental health conditions from getting support.

He added: "We urge everyone to consider their role as a member of the community, to go beyond in supporting persons with mental health conditions and helping them to be heard, valued and empowered."

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