One-stop mental health hub opens in Punggol

President Halimah Yacob and volunteer Lucy Tan at the official opening of the Integrated Service Centre @ Punggol on Tuesday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
President Halimah Yacob and volunteer Lucy Tan at the official opening of the Integrated Service Centre @ Punggol on Tuesday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Centre aims to give support to youth, the elderly - seen as vulnerable groups

Teenagers and senior citizens facing mental health issues can now find help at a one-stop centre.

Located on the ground floor of a Punggol HDB block, the new Integrated Service Centre @ Punggol (ISC @ Punggol) by community-based group AMKFSC Community Services combines its support arms for young people, the elderly and those with mental health issues.

"With the increasing complexity of social challenges such as mental health issues and the ageing population, the integrated centre serves as a focal point to cater to and address these challenges," a spokesman for the group said.

The young and the elderly have emerged as two vulnerable groups when it comes to mental health.

Last year, the Community Health Assessment Team, an outreach arm of the Institute of Mental Health, said the number of young people aged between 16 and 30 who approached it for help almost tripled between 2015 and 2017, from 550 to 1,580.

Suicide prevention agency Samaritans of Singapore said the number of elderly people taking their own lives reached a record high of 129 in 2017. This is the highest since the tracking of suicide numbers began in 1991.

The AMKFSC spokesman said one way to help both groups would be to foster "co-creation and collaborations across generations", adding that one of its pilot programmes, Artship Studio, will do this by getting the young and the elderly to create art together.

Beyond providing professional help to those with mental health issues, the Integrated Service Centre @ Punggol will also organise events to increase public awareness on what remains a taboo topic.

President Halimah Yacob attended the official opening of ISC @ Punggol on Tuesday, during which an inter-generational art exhibition and performances co-created by youth and seniors were put up.

Beyond providing professional help to those with mental health issues, ISC @ Punggol will also organise events to increase public awareness on what remains a taboo topic.

Its existing #imOKru campaign, short for "I'm okay, are you?", is a comprehensive outreach programme involving platforms such as a mobile app, events and talks in schools to reduce the stigma of mental health.

 
 
 
 

It hopes to encourage those who feel alienated to initiate conversations about their feelings, also using the short greeting as a preventive measure for people to check on how others are doing.

To commemorate the centre's opening, a coffee-table book called Spring, which brings together stories of how those with mental health issues deal with who they are, was launched on Tuesday.

"Spring signifies bouncing back from life's adversities, and also beginning a new season of life," the spokesman said.

The new centre will also offer a range of support to the young and to senior citizens not directly related to mental health issues, such as helping young people quit smoking and providing cooking lessons for the elderly.

AMKFSC began as Ang Mo Kio Social Service Centre in 1978 to help residents facing psycho-social and financial issues. It later broadened its reach to help other groups, such as those going through divorce and former convicts. It was corporatised in 2014 and renamed AMKFSC Community Services.

Today, it has more than 25 touchpoints across central and north-eastern Singapore, including four family service centres in Ang Mo Kio, Sengkang and Punggol.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2019, with the headline 'One-stop mental health hub opens in Punggol'. Print Edition | Subscribe