Promoting mental wellness a 'kampung' effort in the community

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Eric Chua (fifth from left) celebrating Safe Pod @ Queentown’s first anniversary on Oct 9, 2022. PHOTO: SAFE POD @ QUEENSTOWN
MP Nadia Ahmad Samdin launched the Care Network-Living Well initiative in her Cheng San-Seletar ward in Dec 2021 to equip the community with awareness and skills in mental health issues. PHOTOS: NADIA A. SAMDIN/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - All 18,000 households in Cheng San-Seletar ward received care packs from MP Nadia Ahmad Samdin on the weekend in conjunction with World Mental Health Day on Monday.

Besides food, the pack includes a care note, a list of mental wellness resources available, and a call to spot neighbours who need help and inform the community club of such cases.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been more initiatives to drive greater awareness of mental wellness.

Over the past two years, several MPs have been enlisting the help of the community to make mental wellness a collaborative, "kampung" effort.

Ms Nadia launched the Care Network-Living Well initiative in her Cheng San-Seletar ward, which is part of Ang Mo Kio GRC, in December 2021 to equip the community with awareness and skills in mental health issues.

Ms Cassia Leong, a Cheng San resident who attended the psychological first aid workshop under the programme in December 2021, helps to look out for those who need support.

The 45-year-old housewife said she learnt that we do not always need to have a solution for someone who is stressed or depressed. Sometimes, they just need a listening ear.

Trained psychological first-aid responders and volunteers check in regularly on seniors living in Cheng San-Seletar ward.

"In an ageing society, I feel strongly about supporting our seniors towards better mental well-being even as we look after their physical health," Ms Nadia said.

By 2030, about one in four Singaporeans will be aged over 65, up from one in six today.

Beyond her ward, Ms Nadia is creating greater awareness about mental health in the Malay community with a focus group discussion involving activists from the People's Action Party Malay Affairs Bureau.

In Queenstown, residents can sign up for free Wellness Befriender Training, where they will be equipped with skills such as mental health first aid, identifying those with mental issues and basics of counselling.

The volunteers graduate as wellness befrienders after about a month. Currently, there are 72 wellness befrienders, and 14 more will graduate soon.

Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Nadia Samdin joining a child painting a mural at a “Calm Corner” outside a committee centre in Ang Mo Kio. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Eric Chua said: "What warms my heart most was to see many residents and students in Queenstown signing up as wellness befrienders and volunteering their effort and time to help out those around them. To me, it's a modern-day expression of the kampung spirit."

Mr Chua's Queenstown ward is part of Tanjong Pagar GRC.

On World Mental Health Day 2021, he launched the Safe Pod @ Queenstown programme with the help of community partners and schools. Under this initiative, a counsellor and trained befrienders on board a roaming van use an artificial intelligence screening tool to help determine the support a person needs.

To date, more than 2,500 residents and students in Queenstown have tried the tool.

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Edward Chia organised mental health first-aid courses in his Zhenghua ward over the past year to increase awareness among residents.

He has also set up a befrienders network, where residents can serve as mental health first responders.

Mr Alvin Tan, an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, started the Moulmein-Cairnhill mental health task force in 2020 to look after the mental well-being of seniors.

Regular activities are organised to keep them active and engaged, such as Our House Downstairs - a weekly art jamming session for them to make and meet friends.

In April 2022, the PAP launched #BetterTogether to champion mental health literacy, support and de-stigmatisation.

It engages mental health organisations, community groups and the public to consolidate ground concerns and proposals for legislative and policy changes.

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