The State of Singaporean Mental Health

From top-notch medical institutions to some of the most highly trained medical workers, Singapore has all that is required to make a powerhouse of a healthcare system. As such, Singapore’s medical industry had been the envy of most of the world.  However, one aspect of the industry had not been given an equal focus – mental healthcare. 

Recently, the country’s Institute of Mental Health (IMH) released a study of the current state of mental healthcare in Singapore. While the assessment showed some promising signs, there are still some areas of improvement that cropped up. 

Promising Signs of Singapore’s Mental Health Response 

One of the most promising signs of Singapore’s good mental healthcare system is the relatively low Lifetime Prevalence Rates of mental disorders across the board. This means that the numbers indicate that Singaporeans may be experiencing fewer mental disorders than the rest of the world. 

There is also a rapid growth in awareness and, more importantly, an expanding government support for mental health response such as depression treatment and others. One clear sign of this increased support is the rise to 2000+ bed-capacity for the country’s premiere inpatient mental health facility. There is also a steady increase in private mental health clinics ready to take on some of the workload from public mental health facilities. 

Recent developments in anti-discrimination efforts on mental health issues are also hugely beneficial to the movement. One of the biggest wins in this area is the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) update that makes it illegal for employers to ask for mental health conditions on their job application processes. 

Another important development is the recent decriminalization of suicide. This move by lawmakers has made it a little less daunting for those with suicidal to thoughts to seek help. 

Singapore’s mental health advocates are also thriving. NGOs dedicated to either raising awareness or helping mental health patients get proper diagnosis and treatment are also steadily increasing. 

Caveats To Singapore’s Positive Mental Health Assessment 

While there are clear indicators that Singapore is on the right track when it comes to dealing with the impact of mental health on its populace, it is important to take into account some of the caveats tied to Singapore’s mental health. Inaccurate reporting due the stigma, for example, might be skewing Lifetime Prevalence Rates. 

Despite the efforts to destigmatize mental health, majority of the Singaporean population still find it difficult to navigate topics concerning mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. An article called A decade of influence in the Singapore youth mental health landscape: the Community Health Assessment Team recently published in the Singapore Medical Journal, for example, highlighted how young people in Singapore were disinclined to consult with mental health professionals. The article quoted that about 45% of youth who were referred to the Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT), a network of communications channels dedicated to mental health consultations and inquiries, either declined to consult or completely refused to talk about their mental health.  

Who are Affected? 

While the stigma might cause some inaccuracies in assessing the country’s mental health situation, there are still some trends and insights that can be gleaned from the statistics.  

The Youth Have the Highest Prevalence Rates Among Singaporeans  

Mental health professionals theorise that the youth, because of the physiological changes they are undergoing due to puberty, are more susceptible to mental disorders. The numbers support it as the IMH’s report suggests that 50% of mental disorders in the youth sector tend to manifest before the age of 14. The chances of developing mental disorder rises even more by up to 75% as the youth nears in on the age of 24. 

The Elderly Make Up an Alarming Portion of Suicides 

The elderly, on the other hand, also experience a rising likelihood of developing serious mental disorders. Suicide among people above 60 years old, for example, make up 36% of the total number of suicides in Singapore in 2017. 

IMH report posits that these high suicide rates might be attributable to social factors. Singapore’s small family unit, for example, leads to the elderly ending up alone in most circumstances causing social isolation and crippling loneliness

How To Improve Singapore’s Mental Healthcare and Treatment 

While Singapore has already made a massive leap into improving mental healthcare in recent years, there is still a lot of room to grow. 

One major factor that holds the movement back is the social stigma on mental disorders that still prevails in Singaporean attitudes. This negative attitude toward mental health prevents not just individuals from reporting and getting the necessary treatment, it also results in underreporting of mental health cases giving experts and policymakers an incomplete perspective of the bigger mental health picture. 

It is paramount, therefore, that the social stigma be addressed in some way. In-school mental health discussions, for example, can help pave the way for a new generation of Singaporeans with a better grasp of how mental health affects an individual. This is exactly why CHAT has included a youth outreach program in its framework. 

How Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic Can Help Reduce the Stigma 

However, we understand that getting rid of the stigma may not be so easy to break for some individuals. It may still be difficult for them to come to a mental health clinic to get help

This is why we at Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic has made confidentiality a part of our motto. We ensure that our patient’s privacy is at the forefront of our treatment. 

Our roster of mental health practitioners, including our principal Psychiatrist Dr. John Bosco Lee, are trained in various forms of treatment such as EMDR, Art Therapy, child counselling, and other methods. If you think you can benefit from a consult, please give us a call. 

Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic  

Contact number: +65 62509833  

Address: #04-32, The Adelphi, 1 Coleman St, Singapore 179803