BY MALEEKA HASSAN
Youth mental health in Singapore has shown troubling statistics over the years. In 2017, mental illness was the primary cause of years lost to disease amongst the age group 10-34, with suicide rates on the rise. The COVID-19 pandemic further worsened mental health issues globally, with unprecedented records of stress, depression, and anxiety. Research into the Singapore mental health landscape found a lack of population-wide initiatives in Singapore that addressed youth mental well-being and preventative measures to reduce the risk of future mental illnesses.
These findings prompted APC to organise a series of dialogues on mental health from 2020-2021 and eventually led to the formation of a Mental Wellness collective within the APC network to address these gaps together with mental health practitioners, non-profit leaders, and funders.
The collective is looking to approach the aforementioned gap through:
- The creation of a crowdsourced portal for mental health resources;
- An appeal to the Ministry of Education (MOE) to review the policies on school counselling practises;
- Initiatives to support teachers in improving their mental health;
- A one-stop centre for multidisciplinary mental health service and interventions
- Insurance coverage for low-income families, covering mental illness prevention and early intervention.
The initiatives target different aspects of the mental health landscape to ensure improved resilience and mental wellbeing amongst Singapore youth. By providing both upstream and downstream interventions, the collective seeks to provide proactive measures that enhance mental well-being to reduce risks of mental illnesses, while also strengthening access to mental health resources in the event that it is needed.
There has been steady progress made towards the implementation of all five interventions. The collective has sent a letter to the MOE calling for a review of school counselling policies in September 2021, which has been acknowledged. Additionally, to better conceptualise the needs of the crowdsourced platform’s target audience, APC partnered with Accenture to carry out a series of design-thinking workshops from August to October 2021, targeting youths, educators and allied professionals, and parents to gather data for the crowdsourced portal, along with potential features and utilities that it could possess, while meeting the demands of the different stakeholders who will use it.
The findings from the workshops will be presented by Accenture in Q1 2022 to APC’s members and APC’s Mental Wellness Collective. If you are interested in attending, or would like to get involved with the Mental Wellness Collective, do get in touch with Stacey Choe for more details.