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Dr Syed Harun Alhabsyi (Nominated MP)


“Taking a Holistic Approach to Strengthen Mental Health and Well-being”

  1. I thank the Member, Dr Syed Harun Alhabsyi, for his passion and concern for the mental health and well-being of all Singaporeans. I am also grateful that Dr Syed has chosen to speak on this important topic in his maiden speech in this House.

Recent statistics on mental health and well-being

  1. Mental health is a pressing concern. The recent National Population Health Survey (NPHS) reported a rise in prevalence of poor mental health among Singapore residents from 13% in 2020 to 17% in 2022.  Younger adults aged 18 to 29 years old seemed more affected, with about a quarter of those surveyed reporting having poor mental health. The Singapore Youth Epidemiology and Resilience (YEAR) study findings released earlier this year also showed that one in three youths reported mental health symptoms such as sadness, anxiety and loneliness. 

Importance of taking a holistic approach to strengthen mental health and well-being 

  1. Good mental health is essential in maintaining overall health. A person’s mental health and well-being is influenced by many factors, such as pressures at work, school, poor relationships, etc. Addressing these issues will require a collaborative and integrated approach that involves multiple stakeholders from the health, social, education, workplace and community sectors. Therefore, besides expanding healthcare capacity and investing in training of our healthcare manpower, we need to go beyond curing mental health conditions to prevention, and tackle upstream factors through a holistic and coherent strategy.

  1. This move upstream means we can avoid over-medicalising mental health conditions and instead invest our resources in the promotion of well-being and early intervention. This will help us to improve our overall health outcomes and reduce health inequalities across the population.

National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy

  1. For this reason, the Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-Being was established in July 2021 to oversee and coordinate mental health efforts across different sectors, focusing on cross-cutting issues that require interagency collaborations. The Taskforce is chaired by Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr Janil Puthucheary, and brings together members from over 30 public, private and people sector agencies, including colleagues from the education, social, and workplace domains. 

  1. Over the past two years, the Taskforce has reviewed the landscape, studied gaps and challenges, and consulted the public and stakeholders. 

  1. We have since put together a comprehensive National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy that charts our way forward to improve the mental health of Singaporeans, and we will be releasing a full report of this Strategy in the next few days. Ahead of the release of the Strategy report, allow me to provide some responses to the issues raised by Dr Syed. 

Accessibility, timeliness, and cultural competency of mental health care

  1. We fully agree with Dr Syed on the importance of taking an active approach towards ensuring accessibility and timeliness of care, capacity and support structures around mental health. For this reason, we believe in preventing poor mental health upstream, by equipping every Singaporean with basic awareness and literacy on mental health and well-being issues, and encouraging those in distress to actively seek help when needed. Efforts in this space include the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) MindSG portal and the “It’s OKAY to Reach Out” campaign which promote self-help and provide guidance on maintaining good mental well-being, such as managing emotions and stress. 

  1. Beyond literacy and awareness, it is also important to dispel stigma and misconceptions around the topic of mental health and well-being. The National Council of Social Service’s (NCSS) Beyond the Label movement addresses mental health stigma and promotes social inclusion of persons with mental health conditions. We hope that through these efforts, we can build better awareness, improve understanding, and normalise conversations around mental health of Singaporeans from all ethnic and religious groups.

  1. Beyond general public education efforts, we have been enhancing community resources to make it easier for Singaporeans to seek help. For instance, Well-being Circles have been set up to provide citizens with the skills to care for their own mental well-being and that of others around them. In addition, community mental health teams supported by the Government and set up by social service agencies provide mental health assessment and psychosocial help for those in distress. Many of these services are provided without charge to the residents.

  1. Specifically for the Malay/Muslim community, I am leading a new focus area on Community Health set up under M3, a collaborative effort between the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), MENDAKI, and MESRA. The aim is to rally the Malay/Muslim community in promoting healthy living lifestyles and empowering them to organise and scale community-led initiatives. One of its priority areas include supporting the mental health and well-being of the residents, taking into account their cultural context. We will leverage on this effort to bring across more mental well-being initiatives to the residents through further collaborations. 

Insurance coverage for individuals with mental health conditions

  1. We note Dr Syed’s concerns on health insurance coverage for individuals with mental health conditions. Today, all Singaporeans are eligible for healthcare subsidies of up to 80% in the public healthcare institutions, and all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents are also covered under MediShield Life regardless of pre-existing conditions, including mental health conditions. Some individuals may wish to purchase private Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) and other insurance plans, beyond subsidies and MediShield Life. Private insurers selling these plans are expected to deal fairly with customers and not to indiscriminately reject an application solely based on declared personal information, such as occupation, income, disability, or medical condition, including mental health conditions. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will take action against insurers whose practices are in breach of MAS’ regulations or guidance, and individuals with concerns over their insurer’s underwriting decision can make an appeal through their insurer’s feedback channel, or through MAS. 

Workplace support for mental health and well-being

  1. Lastly, we recognise the importance of workplace and employment support for individuals with mental health needs. On this front, companies are encouraged to tap on the various initiatives available, such as the Health Promotion Board’s Workplace Outreach Wellness (WOW) package, which supports companies in rolling out general workplace health programmes, including mental health workshops, based on their employees’ needs. The Ministry of Manpower, together with NCSS, is looking into improving the employment and employability of persons with mental health conditions, and strengthening support for mental well-being at the workplace such as better work-life harmony strategies and more job opportunities for persons with mental health conditions. More details on these will be released in the National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy in the next few days. 


  1. Mental health is integral to overall health and well-being. There are plans in the pipeline to address mental health issues holistically over the next few years. With the release of the National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy Report, we invite the members and public to go through the report, understand the Strategy and plans, and put up further ideas and suggestions for discussion.

  1. Thank you. 

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