Does Singapore Have a Problem With Access to Mental Healthcare

While there’s a heightened mental health awareness, accessibility for proper treatment is still largely inadequate for Singapore nationals and permanent residents. As we transition from working and studying from home to going back to the workplace or school, this gap may soon become the next big problem.

The impact of mental health on both the economy and society at large is becoming more and more apparent. Re-entry anxiety and adjustment disorder among employees, for example, is something that companies are monitoring closely. Schools, on the other hand, are hard at work in training teachers to spot signs of mental health issues in the Singapore’s youth. Singapore, it seems, is acutely aware of the problems posed by a widespread mental health epidemic.

This heightened awareness to mental health issues is a welcome development for the nation especially during this crucial pandemic recovery period. Singapore as a society has moved at a rapid pace in this direction in recent years with the decriminalization of attempted suicide and destigmatization of mental health issues. However, this does not mean that the nation’s approach is fool-proof.

Government Care Mental Healthcare Aid

Singapore’s healthcare system is one of the most efficient in the world. However, this is truly only for physical afflictions. Mental health is still something that Singaporeans struggle to afford.

It’s important to mention that there are already systems in place for mental health coverage in Singapore. The government’s Chronic Disease Management Programme, for example, covers schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and even anxiety. However, coverage is capped at S$500 per year with a 10% co-pay. With the current rates of mental health professionals, Singapore nationals and permanent residents can easily max out their coverage.

How Private Insurance Companies are Trying to Help

Insurance is one thing that people can turn to when it comes to getting treatment. However, even this avenue is inadequate to provide the necessary mental health treatment that Singaporeans need.

One key indicator is that insurance providers did not see any increase in claims for mental health coverage despite the rising cases in mental illnesses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is primarily because not a lot of insurance plans cover these illnesses in the first place. Other players in the health insurance industry, on the other hand, do not offer any mental health coverage in their policies at all.

In most plans, coverage is only major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Tourette’s syndrome. Singaporeans have to pay out of pocket for more widespread mental health disorders such as anxiety.

It is important to acknowledge, however, that mental health has never been covered by a large insurer in Singapore until 2019. This alone, is already a huge win for mental health advocates.

Why is Access to Mental Healthcare so Important?

With last year’s forced social isolation caused by the government’s circuit breaker lockdowns and the economic downturn and the job losses that come with it, it would be difficult for a lot of Singaporeans to cope. Psychiatrists and Psychologists in Singapore as well as other mental health experts are worried that the scale and scope of the pandemic’s devastation can cause a massive uptick in anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.

Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety have a huge impact on people’s ability to perform their jobs. With the expected scale of the mental health issues that can arise from the pandemic, IT can result in massive productivity losses for a lot of industries.

As for individuals, living with mental illness can be excruciatingly difficult. Things that you used to be able to do with ease might no longer be as easy to do. Socializing for example, especially after a protracted period of social isolation, can be difficult to get back to.

Singapore has no lack of mental health professionals. We have some of the best psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors who have studied and trained all over the world.

Where Singapore seems to lack in mental healthcare, at least for now, is in access. Singaporeans need to be able to get the treatment that they need without worrying that it could possibly bankrupt them. This way, the treatment gap can be closed and the productivity can continue to grow unimpeded. This way, we can all avoid the dreaded re-entry anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses caused by the pandemic.