As Singapore grapples with an aging population and social stigma associated with reaching out for help for mental health issues, the national government is putting more resources towards improving health-related data and support systems.
“With the highest median ages, longest life expectancy rates and among the lowest fertility rates in the region, Singapore is grappling with the challenges of a rapidly aging population, compounded by the rising prevalence of chronic diseases including diabetes. As life expectancy increases, the number of Singaporeans who need to manage chronic diseases and complications for a longer period of their later adulthood looks set to rise.” – The Singapore Wellness Study
The re-launched three-year comprehensive Singapore Wellness Study will reveal trends in mental health problems in Singapore’s population.
Launched in April 2015 and projected to be completed in 2018, Singapore’s Ministry of Health partnered with the Singapore Millennium Foundation of the Temasek Trust, Nanyang Technological University and Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health to complete a nation-wide study of the mental well-being of Singapore’s adult population. The study will look into mental health versus mental illness, the prevalence of mental health issues in the country, and survey the available services in the country.
"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." — World Health Organization (WHO)
Mental health issues in Singapore
As in other developed countries, rates of depression, stress and anxiety-related issues are quite prevalent and on the rise. Singapore also ranks as having one of the highest rates of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in the world.
Singapore faces the additional challenges that are faced by many other Asian countries with their rapidly aging population and age-related issues, such as chronic disease and Dementia. Unfortunately, despite the increase in mental illness in Singapore, there is still a lack of general understanding as to what constitutes mental illness versus mental well-being, and there are major gaps in data and statistics on the matter.
“Mental health is a fundamental and indispensable component of an individual’s health and well-being. Yet, mental illness is often neglected due to a lack of understanding, misconceptions, discrimination and stigma of the disease.” - Prof K Satku, Director of Medical Services, Singapore’s Ministry of Health
In Singapore, social and self-stigma related to mental illness and seeking professional help is still prevalent. Channel News Asia highlighted that an overwhelming amount of the participants in the last national Wellness Survey shared common perceptions that admitting to, and seeking help for mental illness is a "sign of personal weakness". Despite social stigma, there are many mental health experts offering their services to clients in Singapore—meet some of them here.
A better understanding of mental health in Singapore
The last survey of this type was completed in 2010. The data from this and the updated study will influence the future of policy and health support networks in the country, as well as allow the Singaporean government and private sector alike to launch data-driven, impactful initiatives to support populations in need of support.
The study will also look into gathering data on mental health issues where no current, national-statistics are available (including suicidality and schizophrenia) with the collection of 6,500 interviews of a representative survey of residents, aged 18 and over. The 2016 Singapore Mental Health Study’s (SMHS) website also outlines these additional aims of the study:
- Establish the lifetime and 12-month prevalence of select mental disorders in the adult Singapore resident population,
- Describe the current use of mental health services (both Western and traditional services), level of unmet need including treatment gaps, and identify facilitators and barriers to mental health treatment and the financial, social and personal costs associated with mental illnesss, and
- Estimate the societal cost of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
With 40% of Singapore’s population being foreigners, and even highly-paid expatriate professionals (expats) facing mental health issues such as depression—how will the Ministry of Health collect and integrate data of these non-permanent residents, but integral parts of Singaporean society? As a country known for intense work schedules, how can the government help support people in leading a life with an improved work life balance? Or teach children and adults alike as to the importance of stress management and healthy ways to deal with anxiety?
Why are we focused on Singapore?
While RingMD’s online directory of medical and wellness professionals is global, our headquartersare located in the leafy and pleasant downtown of Singapore. We work closely, 1-on-1 and face-to-face, with both health experts and their patients in Singapore. We look forward to learning more from this initiative and supporting local health professionals in delivering their services seamlessly to Singaporeans and foreigners alike!
Individual mental illness impacts families and communities
Mental illness may be also impacting those close to the ill person, which is why seeking help early in the illness and having strong social support networks are critical for helping the ill feel better. If you’re in need of, and open to speaking to an expert, note that many therapists offer a free, obligation-free inquiry session. No judgments passed. Your inquiry is fully private.
RingMD hosts many medical and wellness professionals from Singapore, and many offer free initial sessions. If you’re looking to consult with a provider on RingMD, check to see if they offer a free session in the “packages” section of their profile or send them a direct message through the chat function on the platform.
Wishing you the best in your wellness journey!