5 key takeaways from the launch of SG Mental Well-Being Network
Over 100 partners and organisations attended the session on Saturday.
Social service agencies are brought together to strengthen mental health and well-being among Singaporeans under a new nationwide initiative, SG Mental Well-Being Network, launched on Saturday (Jul 16).
The SG Mental Well-Being Network, overseen by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), will serve as an expansion of the current Youth Mental Well-Being Network to reach a wider group of Singaporeans.
At the launch, Minister of State and Culture, Community and Youth Alvin Tan shared his vision for a caring and inclusive society and hopes that the new initiative will cover as broad a base as possible.
“The SG Mental Well-Being Network aims to raise awareness, de-stigmatise mental well-being issues, equip citizens to look after themselves and provide a safe space for everyone to do so,” he said.
Here are five takeaways from the SG Mental Well-Being Network launch:
1. The Network seeks to improve the mental health and well-being of Singaporeans
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health and well-being of many Singaporeans including youths, children and the elderly.
Michelle Lee, a Senior Manager at Health Promotion Board (HPB), shared that according to the National Population Health Survey in 2019, mental well-being among Singaporeans aged 18 to 74 years old has worsened.
The mean well-being score, which is measured by HPB’s Singapore Mental Well-Being Scale, decreased from 7.4 out of 9 in 2017 to 7.28 in 2019. According to the scale, the higher the number, the better a person’s mental well-being.
Ms Lee also highlighted a survey conducted by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), which found that 52 per cent of Singaporeans viewed mental health as “being all about mental illness”.
Another 41 per cent of Singaporeans feel that mental well-being is not as important as physical health.
Organisations and volunteers see a need to raise awareness regarding mental health as well as encourage Singaporeans to take action for their well-being and seek help when needed.
The Network will assist these organisations and volunteers in setting up support groups, webinars, and workshops. This will provide a platform for individuals to learn and be exposed to the topic of mental health in Singapore.
It also aims to map out seasons of high stressors such as results day or festive occasion periods. The calendar can be shared with the MCCY’s partners to inform the key seasons to concentrate and provide different efforts.
2. Equipping Singaporeans with the knowledge and skills to render support
According to Ms Lee, while conversations around mental health is becoming common in Singapore, not many are open to sharing or reaching out to a professional and some Singaporeans lack the skills to help others.
She shared that three in four Singaporeans are willing to seek help from friends, family, religious leaders and teachers as compared to professional help.
“Youths particularly ranked their friends as the first choice of support over family, teachers, or mental health professionals,” Ms Lee added.
Out of the 85 per cent of Singaporeans who are willing to help, 51 per cent of them lack the skills to do so.
To solve this, HPB will provide training for peer support skills in schools such as at the Institute of Technological Education (ITE), polytechnics and universities as well as in workplace settings.
The training will allow both employees and managers to learn the skill in supporting someone as well as exchange experiences and challenges with each other through check-in sessions.
HPB also encourages social service organisations and volunteers to host structured supportive skills training by equipping citizens with basic emotional support, practical coping tips and teaching citizens how to appropriately refer someone for further help.
3. Launch of Well-Being Circles
One of the key initiatives that will be piloted under the Network is the formation of the Well-Being Circles.
The main objective of the Well-Being Circles is to strengthen community and peer support as well as provide greater access to mental health support in a particular community.
The Well-Being Circles comprises grassroots leaders and community volunteers who are equipped to support citizens and run mental-health initiatives on the ground.
The circles will be piloted at several grassroots divisions. Each circle will offer a different mix of programmes to each local community such as resources, partnerships and training support for citizens who need help regarding mental health.
Mr Tan highlighted these circles on the ground as a way to provide citizens with an opportunity to learn a “baseline set of skills”.
“The Well-Being Circles will help to reinforce the skills that citizens learn and encourage them to do self-checks on their mental health,” he added.
The Well-Being Circles will be reviewed periodically before MCCY scales it across the rest of Singapore.
4. More funding for mental health projects
Various youth-led and community-led groups that aim to support and improve the mental health issue in Singapore can now receive funding from government organisations such as National Youth Council (NYC) and HPB.
One such funding includes NYC’s National Youth Fund (NYF), which supports projects organised by schools, youth sector organisations as well as social enterprises.
These projects’ key business must be revolving around youth engagement and youth development. The projects must be targeted at youths aged 15 to 35 years old.
Similarly, individuals and organisations that are interested in health promotion or preventive health topics can apply for HPB’s Our Healthy Singapore Fund.
The fund will cover direct project costs such as rental, production, publicity and professional services. However, start-up and operating costs will not be supported.
5. Partnerships with social service organisations and volunteers
There are various tools and efforts developed by organisations such as HPB to counter and improve the current situation on mental health.
Other social service organisations and volunteers are encouraged to tap into these additional tools when training citizens with the skills of providing support to others.
For instance, MindSG is a one-stop portal for National Mental Health and Well-Being resources on different self-care topics such as sleeping well, managing emotions and sleeping well. It also includes easily digestible video clips and audio relaxation clips.
Social service organisations and volunteers can work together with the Network to run certain programmes for a particular community.
The MCCY hopes that the sector partners can run programmes where volunteers will be trained and deployed to practise self-care and peer-support skills and other supporting activities in a way that best serves their communities.
Organisations and individuals can also work on creating structured mental health programmes, which will be eligible for application under the Our Healthy Singapore Fund.