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The Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being (‘Taskforce’), invites members of the public to provide feedback to the Taskforce’s preliminary recommendations. The public consultation will be held from 30 May 2022 to 7 August 2022.
2. The Taskforce was set up in July 2021 to oversee and coordinate mental health and well-being efforts, focusing on cross-cutting issues that require interagency collaborations. The Taskforce is proposing recommendations, with the aim to create a caring and inclusive society, where all can seek help and be supported to achieve mental health and well-being, and can participate meaningfully in our society.
3. Mental health is a state of well-being1 in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively, and make a contribution to his or her community (World Health Organisation, 2022). It is important to our overall health and well-being, and is influenced by various factors across the home, workplace and community settings.
4. As such, the Government adopts a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach towards mental health care and support. The key strategies cover mental health promotion and upstream prevention, early detection and intervention, disease management, care integration, and social support across different settings. Over the years, the Government has worked with healthcare, social service providers, community care partners, employers and grassroots organisations to provide mental health support and services for all individuals across schools, workplaces, healthcare institutions and the community. The Government has also sought views from youths, parents, working adults and persons with mental health conditions2 (PMHC), mental health service providers and employers to understand current gaps in mental health services and areas for improvement.
5. The feedback and insights gleaned from these engagements have informed policies in relation to mental well-being and mental health services. Some examples include:
a. the Ministry of Education’s revised Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum since 2021;
b. the Health Promotion Board’s ‘Parent Hub’ resources on mental well-being issues for parents and children/ youths, launched in April 2021;
c. the Agency for Integrated Care’s (AIC) efforts with hospitals, polyclinics, General Practitioners and community care providers to develop an ecosystem of community mental health support since 2012; and
d. the Employer Support Grant, launched by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) in November 2021 to support employers in providing training opportunities for jobseekers with mental health conditions (please see more details in Appendix A).
Preliminary Recommendations for Feedback
6. The Taskforce recently conducted a landscape review of existing mental health and well-being efforts and gaps. The Taskforce seeks public feedback on the preliminary recommendations, which are organised across three focal areas.
Focus Area 1: Improve accessibility, coordination and quality of mental health services
7. The Ministry of Health, AIC, and the Institute of Mental Health have been working with healthcare institutions and community care providers to provide various mental health services to support PMHC. Services are reviewed periodically with service providers to ensure they remain relevant and appropriate to meet the needs of PMHC and their caregivers.
8. In addition, mental health care is supported by the existing framework of subsidies that apply to all health issues. For example, at outpatient clinics and polyclinics, eligible patients can receive up to 75% subsidies for mental health services. All Singaporeans are also eligible for means-tested subsidies under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) at GP clinics for the treatment of mental health conditions under the Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP). For inpatient treatments, patients receive up to 80% subsidies at our public hospitals and can use MediShield Life and MediSave up to the prevailing limits.
9. Notwithstanding existing efforts, individuals have reported difficulties in navigating the mental health service landscape, and that mental health services are not sufficiently differentiated (e.g. based on type, intensity) to meet different levels of needs. Service providers have also highlighted the need to facilitate better coordination and care planning to deliver holistic care for individuals with mental health needs. In addition, there is a need to ensure that frontline workers, peer supporters, and mental health para-professionals are trained to provide evidence-informed interventions to support individuals with varying levels of mental health needs.
10. To enable timely access to affordable and quality mental health services across the health and social settings, the Taskforce proposes four recommendations for the public’s feedback.
Table 1: Preliminary Recommendations under Focus Area 1
Focus Area 2: Strengthen services and support for youth mental well-being
11. While Government agencies, schools and community partners have been building youth mental health services and promoting awareness of mental health issues over the years, there is room to improve mental health awareness among youths, and to provide easier access to mental health support and services for them. The Government’s feedback unit (REACH) conducted three e-Listening Points in 2021 with 1,950 youths on youth mental well-being issues. The findings revealed that while youth participants were largely aware of various mental health support avenues and services, only half were comfortable with accessing professional support for mental health. Participants’ concerns included stigma, costs and time, and prior poor experiences with counselling or mental health support services.
12. In addition, a supportive home environment and nurturing family relationships are critical to support the mental well-being of youth. However, some parents may not feel confident on how to support their child’s social-emotional well-being.
13. Digital technology and social media also play a significant role in influencing youth mental well-being. Based on the National Youth Council’s online polls and conversations with youths on online harms conducted in 2021, youths reported being insulted online, being impersonated by someone else online, and receiving repeated unwanted contact on online platforms as the top three online harms they faced. Beyond online harms, there is also concern that the unregulated use of technology and social media may create a distorted view of reality, creating unrealistic expectations and heightening social pressure among youths.
14. To strengthen services and support for youth mental well-being, the Taskforce proposes three recommendations for the public’s feedback.
Table 2: Preliminary Recommendations under Focus Area 2
Focus Area 3: Improve workplace well-being measures and employment support
15. All persons in recovery from mental health conditions should have the opportunity to live with dignity in a caring and inclusive society. Employment is an important aspect of recovery for PMHC as it allows them another avenue to participate meaningfully in society.
16. From past Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with PMHC, NCSS found that training opportunities were helpful but were limited to only a few industries. FGDs also found that some PMHC are unable to attend mainstream courses due to their conditions, and others do not complete the training as they have to start work to earn an income, which negatively affects their job prospects.
17. In addition, employment support agencies that provide customised vocational training and employment support for PMHC currently use their own assessment and referral frameworks to understand PMHC’s employment needs and refer them to appropriate services. This results in uneven standards of care and support delivered to PMHC.
18. Findings from the NCSS 2021 Public Attitudes towards Persons with Mental Health Conditions Study showed that while workplace attitudes towards PMHC have improved, more can be done to address stigma and misconceptions as well as support mental well-being in organisations - only three in five respondents were willing to work with someone with mental health conditions, and only two in five respondents agreed that their organisation provided adequate support for mental well-being. Furthermore, in NTUC’s Special Report 2021 on Mental Wellness, findings showed that four in five employees felt there was stigma associated with issues related to mental wellness at work.
19. Employers have expressed concerns about hiring PMHC, due to uncertainty about their abilities, misconceptions about the employability of PMHC, as well as the lack of knowledge on the support PMHC need to perform their job roles. Employers also shared that it is challenging to implement workplace mental health and well-being support due to time, resource and knowledge constraints, and they would appreciate guidance on how to implement inclusive hiring and support practices.
20. To strengthen workplace well-being measures and improve the employability of and employment support for PMHC, the Taskforce proposes five recommendations for the public’s feedback.
Table 3: Preliminary Recommendations under Focus Area 3
21. The Taskforce invites members of the public to share your feedback on the Taskforce’s preliminary recommendations. You may do so via this link: go.gov.sg/mental-health, from 30 May 2022 to 7 August 2022. During the exercise, feedback can be submitted to the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) via the online feedback form. All feedback should reach MOH and MSF by 7 August 2022.
1 Mental well-being is the state of thriving in various areas of life, such as in relationships, at work, play and more, despite ups and down, and is defined as thoughts, feelings, and how people cope with the ups and downs of everyday life. (Adapted from Department of Health and Social Care, Gov.UK, 2022).
2 Mental health conditions are conditions that affect mood, thinking and behaviour. These conditions significantly impact day-to-day living and interactions with others (adapted from Department of Health and Social Care, Gov.UK, 2022).