Greater access to mental health services to be provided for Singaporeans as part of new national strategy
Mental health services will be available in all new polyclinics by 2030.
Those in need of mental health support can look forward to having more accessible care under the new National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy, which was launched by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday (Oct 5).
The strategy aims to tackle mental health issues from both preventive and curative perspectives, through schools, community and workplaces.
The strategy will focus on four key areas: expanding capacity of mental health services, enhancing capabilities of service providers for early identification and intervention, promoting mental health and well-being, and improving workplace mental health and well-being.
The Inter-agency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being conducted consultations between May to August 2022, which garnered over 950 responses from members of the public.
To better organise mental health services according to the severity of individuals’ mental health needs, a Tiered Care Model was introduced.
Four tiers – Mental well-being promotion, Low intensity services, Moderate intensity services, and High intensity services – are in place to help care providers better determine the level of support needed for each individual.
Expanding capacity of mental health services
To ensure adequate hospital care for mental health patients, MOH is working to increase the inpatient psychiatric bed and rehabilitation capacity at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).
The redeveloped Alexandra Hospital will also offer expanded psychiatric services.
More general practitioners (GPs), in addition to the existing 400, will be trained and onboarded to support mental health under Healthier SG.
Currently, 17 of the existing 24 polyclinics provide mental health services. MOH plans to extend the provision of these services to all new polyclinics by 2030.
MOH also plans for the opening of two new psychiatric nursing homes and a psychiatric rehabilitation home by 2030.
In addition, IMH is piloting a Crisis Response Team (CRT) to support police officers in providing prompt support for individuals at risk of suicide.
According to MOH, many suicidal youths’ triggers are related to psychosocial stressors such as difficult interpersonal relationships. An intermediate residential facility will be piloted to support this group of youths and provide them with a safe and nurturing environment.
The Government recognises that parental consent for mental health services is required for children and youths under 21, and this may affect their access to such services. Hence, it will study overseas practices to address this issue.
To ensure the mental well-being of women during and after their pregnancy, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital will introduce a universal antenatal depression screening as part of their routine care.
For vulnerable families and individuals, over 300 staff in Family Service Centres (FSCs) have been trained to identify individuals with mental health needs, and refer them to appropriate mental health services where necessary.
Enhancing capabilities of service providers for early identification and intervention
According to MOH, more trained service providers across various sectors are needed to deliver better mental health services.
As such, 90,000 existing volunteers and frontline personnel from Government agencies, community partners and mental health service providers – who are already trained in mental health awareness – will be equipped with additional skills to provide psychological first aid.
In the next two years, MOH also aims to train about 10,000 more frontline personnel and upskill 1,500 frontline social service professionals.
Promoting mental health and well-being
MOH also shared its position that an effective healthcare strategy for mental health should be “holistic”. Hence, preventive care is equally important as the treatment of mental disorders, to avoid onset of mental health conditions where possible.
To normalise conversations surrounding mental health, improve mental health literacy and reduce stigma, several public organisations have run education campaigns – such as the Health Promotion Board (HPB)’s It’s OKAY to Reach Out, and National Council of Social Service (NCSS)’s Beyond the Label (BTL) movement.
Alongside this, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has implemented education efforts in schools and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) to build better mental well-being and resilience in students.
HPB also works with the IHLs to establish peer support structures, and training for students who volunteer to take up these peer support roles.
Moving forward, to ensure schooling youths’ safety on online platforms, a positive use guide on healthy use of technology will be developed with the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).
Parents with children aged three to 17 years may also attend HPB’s mental well-being workshops to learn how to help their children cope with emotions, build resilience and manage their stressors.
Other improvements include a Parents’ Toolbox, which is expected to be launched in phases from early 2024. It aims to strengthen parent-child relationships through empowering parents with personalised skills and knowledge.
Improving workplace mental health and well-being
Relevant agencies such as the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), NCSS, HPB and the Workplace Safety and Health Council are working to strengthen mental well-being support systems at the workplace.
They plan to do so by training employees to be peer supporters, and recognising progressive employers who look out for their employees’ well-being.
To prevent workplace discrimination, including discrimination based on mental health conditions, new legislation under the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness will be implemented.
Individuals affected by mental health conditions who struggle to find a job can receive vocational training and employment support, to help restore their confidence and reintegrate them into society.
More employers will be encouraged to hire and support these individuals, via outreach efforts by tripartite partners such as Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).
MOH will continue its nationwide efforts for mental health and well-being by establishing a National Mental Health Office by 2025.
It will continue overseeing the National Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy, and future mental health care developments.
Further information on the Strategy is available on the MOH website.
Here are some mental health resources you might find useful: