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Distinguished Speakers,


Ladies and Gentlemen,



1.             Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you today at the inaugural Mental Health Festival Asia. I would like to thank Intellect for organising this conference to foster learning and create meaningful conversations surrounding mental health, and I am confident that it will be an enriching time for our participants.


The current status of mental health in Singapore


2.             The COVID-19 pandemic has been a great stressor on our physical and mental health. To safeguard physical health and lives, we have had to put in place various safe management measures, which have resulted in significant reductions to physical and social interactions. With decreased social interaction comes the very real risk of social isolation. Social isolation, economic uncertainty, and fear of family members or friends getting infected have all contributed to distress among our population. These also underscore the wide-ranging impact that the pandemic has had on our society.


3.             In Singapore, the Institute of Mental Health found that between May 2020 and June 2021, about 13% of the general population reported experiencing depression or anxiety symptoms since the pandemic started. You may have experienced such symptoms yourself, or know family members, friends, colleagues, students, patients or clients who have had similar experience during the pandemic.


4.             Even in the absence of mental health symptoms, some have experienced a state of low mental well-being, and feelings of stagnation and emptiness amidst the pandemic. Known as ‘languishing’, this refers to a lack of motivation and focus, even though there are no mental health symptoms present. It can be thought of as a middle state between being well and flourishing, and having a mental health condition. We should not overlook these experiences and feelings, because languishing has been reported to be a risk factor for the development of mental health conditions. This is an issue of concern, fueled by the ongoing pandemic.


Our response to mental health issues amidst the pandemic


5.             The pandemic has brought many mental health issues to the fore. In response, various initiatives have been implemented at the national level. For example, we set up the COVID-19 Mental Wellness Taskforce last October, to coordinate and integrate agency responses to tackle the psychosocial impact of the pandemic on the population. We set up the National CARE Hotline in April last year, to provide psychological first aid and emotional support. The hotline was designed to address anxiety and adjustment issues related to the pandemic and has received over 50,000 calls since its launch1.


6.             Many of our public sector agencies have also responded with several initiatives to help Singaporeans through these difficult times. For example, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth launched a campaign called “Brave the New” towards the end of last year, encouraging Singaporeans to take proactive steps to support their own and others’ mental well-being. It reached 2.1 million Singaporeans, with three-quarters of those surveyed reported being more motivated to self-help or help others in their mental well-being. Following this campaign, HPB rolled out the “Hi!JustCheckingIn” initiative in January this year to equip Singaporeans with the appropriate skills to help them identify and reach out to those who may need support. We hope these efforts will help to build a supportive community, in which individuals feel encouraged to seek help if they have difficulties coping.


7.             As we seek to build a supportive ecosystem, it is equally important that our discussions and efforts to improve mental health are done in an inclusive manner, with the engagement of all relevant stakeholders. It is in this spirit that the Government launched the Youth Mental Well-being Network last February, bringing together the wider society to ideate and develop solutions to improve the well-being of our youth. Over 1,500 individuals from all walks of life responded. Just last month, the network has moved to its Call-to-Action phase, and now welcomes members of the public to join over 20 projects looking at important areas, such as strengthening peer support and increasing emotional resilience.


Looking beyond COVID-19 in our response to mental health issues


8.             Even as we transition towards a COVID-19 resilient nation, challenges to our health, healthcare system and economy will remain. We can expect that the psychosocial impact of the pandemic will continue to be felt for some years to come, with knock-on effects on our mental health and well-being. Therefore it is apt that we have evolved the COVID-19 Mental Wellness Taskforce into an Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being, to address the population’s mental health in the longer term, with a focus on cross-cutting issues across agency lines. This new Taskforce will bring together different agencies, ministries and stakeholders involved in mental health care. It aims to coordinate and ensure better service delivery, while also optimising policies, resource allocation, training and capability development. Through this taskforce, we hope to take the lessons learnt from the pandemic and continue to enhance our mental health efforts for the longer term.


9.             Concurrently, we have also been increasing the capacity of our community mental health services under the Community Mental Health Masterplan. As of last year, we had over 220 General Practitioner partners and 14 polyclinics providing mental health and/or dementia services across the country. We have worked with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) to set up 50 community outreach teams in partnership with Social Service Agencies (SSAs), reaching out to thousands of persons with mental health or dementia needs. We have also established 21 allied health-led community intervention teams, to provide mental health interventions such as psycho-social therapeutic interventions and counselling for persons with mental health needs in their homes.


10.          Moving forward, we need to think outside the box and develop mental health and healthcare solutions that are innovative and that harness the power of technology. One such example is the online platform, rolled out by the MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation. On this website, members of the public can understand their own state of emotional well-being using a self-assessment tool, and access relevant mental health resources and self-help tools.




11.          I am heartened to see that this festival brings together a diverse panel of speakers and participants from different industries, to speak on a wide range of mental health issues. I am hopeful that this meeting of minds will be an excellent opportunity for new and innovative solutions to be developed in response to our dynamic mental health challenges.


12.          I wish everyone a fruitful and fulfilling time at the festival. Thank you.

[1] As at Aug 2021.

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