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Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Ms Foo Mee Har
MP for West Coast GRC

Question No. 1521

To ask the Minister for Health how can family members can get support to arrange professional help for a member of the family who suffers from mental health issues but who refuses to consult a doctor.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim
MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC

Question No. 1630

To ask the Minister for Health in light of the various initiatives supported by the Silver Volunteer Fund to grow senior volunteerism in Singapore, whether the Ministry will consider training senior volunteers as unqualified health workers as first responders to help people with mental health issues, much like the Friendship Bench project in Zimbabwe which has assisted many suffering from depression and other mental health issues.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Dr Shahira Abdullah
Nominated MP

Question No. 1694

To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether the inter-agency task force on mental wellness is planning to establish a national suicide prevention strategy as part of the national mental well-being strategy; and (b) whether there are plans to transition this task force into a permanent national co-ordinating office for mental health and well-being under the Ministry given the increasing prevalence of mental health conditions and suicides.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Yip Hon Weng
MP for Yio Chu Kang

Question No. 1650

To ask the Minister for Health (a) how many private insurers currently offer coverage for mental illness under the Integrated Shield Plan; (b) what are the Ministry’s efforts to engage with private insurance companies to improve insurance coverage for mental illness; and (c) whether the Mental Wellness Taskforce has determined the population’s accessibility to insurance coverage for mental illness and, if so, what are the findings.

Written Answer

The 4 questions reflect the breadth of concerns and challenges that families and individuals challenged with mental health issues face: the role of the family, the interface with the professionals, the opportunities to help through volunteerism, the challenges of access to care as a result of lack of consent or insurance coverage, and the need for a national strategy addressing the entire spectrum of Mental Health conditions, including suicides.

The interplay within these various challenges and many others, as well as the need to look across agencies and ministries are some of the reasons why in July 2021 the government set up the new Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being to develop a comprehensive strategy to strengthen our mental resilience and well-being

We have begun work and will be addressing the various issues, and will report on our progress. We will develop a National Strategy on Mental Health, and work on the details of programmes and implementation.

I will now provide a summary of the existing initiatives that address the members’ questions currently.

On the matter of insurance coverage, MediShield Life provides universal coverage for all Singapore Residents including for subsidised inpatient psychiatric care. In addition, Medifund is available for those who qualify. 

Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) are private and optional products that provide additional coverage for patients who wish to seek private and unsubsidised care. The benefits are determined by insurers based on their own commercial and actuarial considerations. Today, all seven IP insurers offer IPs that provide coverage for inpatient psychiatric treatments. In making underwriting and claims decisions, insurers are expected to treat all customers fairly and reasonably, regardless of whether they have a mental illness. We are formulating guidelines for insurers to adopt fair and responsible practices towards all customers, and will commence public consultations when ready. 

Our Mental Health Community Outreach Teams are supported by volunteers who help to broaden and extend the outreach to vulnerable persons in the community. They include the Silver Generation Ambassadors from the Silver Generation Office, befrienders across various befriending programmes, including those under the Silver Volunteer Fund, and caregiver peers. These volunteers do regular check-ins on vulnerable individuals, and refer them to the appropriate care services where needed.

Individuals with or suspected to have mental health conditions who cause disturbances in the community and who refuse mental health assessment or treatment can be flagged to agencies such as the police, grassroots organizations, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) or the town council. Our ground agencies would engage the individual or the family members to explore how best to arrange an assessment or intervention. 

The Interagency Taskforce will review our current approach and existing measures, to ensure that persons with mental health needs can continue to receive the care they require.

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