BY JING NING LEE
The severity of mental health issues in Singapore has been sobering. In 2018, 607 children between the ages 7 and 18 were admitted into public hospitals for mental health conditions in Singapore. This has led APC members to consider how philanthropy can contribute to strengthening mental health care, particularly for children and youths.
APC invited Dr Robyn Mildon, Founding Executive Director of the Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI), Maryanna Abdo, Managing Director of CEI, and their team to offer their perspectives on the mental health landscape in Singapore, and how philanthropic work in this space can be evidence-based.
Robyn highlighted that many mental health systems around the world are plagued with fundamental shortcomings – the scene is often fragmented and lacks routine outcome monitoring. Nonetheless, Robyn is optimistic that philanthropists—with their independence, agility and higher risk appetite—can strengthen mental health care, particularly in four areas:
- Improving interventions and services
- Contributing to sector strengthening
- Investing in discovery research
- Participating in advocacy and awareness-building
Speakers also highlighted the importance of considering different types of mental health interventions—such as the downstream provision of services and the upstream research to build deeper understanding of the causes and solutions of mental health. In response, Robyn shared the University of Pennsylvania’s The Center for High Impact Philanthropy’s (CHIP) review of strategies to address mental health and addiction, which is a useful framework for informing action.
Despite the many challenges that the mental health sector faces, in particular due to the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been encouraging to see a surge in interest around the issue and commitment to contributing to the landscape.
Given the interest of members in improving mental wellbeing, APC will continue to explore identify potential areas of action that philanthropy can organise around, and is is looking to convene a small group around building resilience in young people—this would include a small, diverse, and entrepreneurial group of practitioners.
APC members interested to participate in the discussions and working sessions can get in touch with Stacey Choe. Please do also feel free to suggest others whom you think would contribute thoughtfully and on a deeper level to the discussions.