Budget debate: MPs propose mental health support for men, care workers

Ms Carrie Tan (Nee Soon GRC) noted the heightened stress that care workers experience amid the Covid-19 pandemic. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Men should be encouraged to seek help for mental health issues and discard toxic masculine stereotypes that dissuade them from doing so, said Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) on Wednesday (March 2).

Speaking on the third and final day of the Budget debate, he called for the Ministry of Defence to run programmes to educate full-time national servicemen and soldiers that it is all right to seek help.

Other MPs highlighted the need for more support for those in care professions such as social work and teaching, as well as those doing informal caregiving.

In his speech, Mr David said having mental wellness programmes and demolishing archaic male stereotypes is not incompatible with training soldiers to be tough and resilient.

"Help them move away from the stereotype that you should shed blood and not tears because 'real men don't cry'," he said.

He also called for dedicated resources and platforms for secondary schools and tertiary institutions to teach male students to dispel such stereotypes and feel comfortable to speak up about their struggles.

Mr David also suggested that the Government devote resources to creating more community-based platforms specifically for men struggling with mental wellness.

"For example, one could start with mental well-being activities in community clubs and centres that cater to men, and perhaps this could evolve into dedicated, structured support group sessions that men could attend," he said.

Other groups that need more support are those who work to care for others, said Ms Carrie Tan (Nee Soon GRC). Their well-being has to be protected to prevent burnout and ensure quality care, she added.

She called for reasonable compensation, opportunities for advancement, adequate staffing and preventive steps against abuse, among others.

"What quality of care can we reasonably expect when those who toil in our care professions and social services are stretched too thin?" she asked.

Ms Tan noted the heightened stress that care workers experience amid the Covid-19 pandemic and cautioned that burnout could result in a loss of empathy - which she said is the bedrock of caring professions.

She called for an increase in national resourcing for social work, social services, healthcare and mental health care to ensure each sector is adequately staffed and well protected from work hazards.

Noting that cases of nurses being physically or verbally abused or even sexually harassed by patients are increasing, Ms Tan proposed harsher legislation to punish those who abuse healthcare workers, to send a clearer signal that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

In her speech, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam said she hoped that the Government would continue to channel funds to better support families of children with special needs such as intellectual disability.

She also called for more efforts in developing mentoring opportunities for young people, to help them explore career opportunities.

"Many of us have had the good fortune of meeting someone in our lives who have guided us, shown us what is possible and brought us to a completely different trajectory in our lives. Not everyone or every young person is as fortunate," she said.

A culture of mentoring would ensure every young person, regardless of background, would have the chance to be guided to find and seize opportunities that come up, she added.

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