SINGAPORE — A new specialised care facility will be piloted to support youth who are at risk of suicide, the Government said.
This was announced on Thursday (Oct 5) during the launch of the National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy, which aims to build up the country’s mental health ecosystem to offer accessible clinical care to people who need it.
For young persons with suicide risk, not all have mental health conditions, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said in releasing a 49-page report of the national strategy.
On average each year, 650 people aged 10 to 19 with suicide risk are admitted to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and at least half of these do not suffer from any mental health conditions.
Instead, triggers are usually related to stressors such as difficult interpersonal relationships with family, peers or romantic partners.
After they are discharged from IMH, some of these young people might be re-admitted because they find it hard to cope with their living environment.
“An intermediate residential facility will be piloted for this group of youths to stabilise them in a safe and nurturing environment, while providing psycho-social interventions to address underlying triggers before discharge,” the ministries said in a news release.
MOH and MSF are co-leading the Inter-agency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being, formed in July 2021 to oversee and coordinate mental health efforts across various public sector agencies.
The task force, which developed the national strategy, is chaired by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Health and for Communications and Information.
He said on Thursday at a press conference: “What we want to do is to improve the mental health support ecosystem here… where people live in a caring and inclusive society, seek help without stigma and are ready to support one another.”
The plan is to also avoid unwarranted medicalising when it comes to treatments and to reduce the stigma around mental health, the task force said in the report.
RESOURCES TO SUPPORT YOUTH AND THEIR PARENTS
The intermediate facility for young people who are at risk of suicide is envisioned to be a rehabilitation centre where they may seek refuge free of stigma in a safe environment for short periods of time, or up to six months.
This is a live-in facility where a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, live-in staff members and nurses attend to them to address underlying triggers before they are discharged.
Details on payment methods and insurance coverage, the facility’s capacity as well as its location are still in the works.
To better support parents in helping to manage their children’s mental health, a “toolbox” is being developed to empower and equip them with personalised knowledge and skills to build strong parent-child relationships and to strengthen their children’s mental well-being and resilience.
This resource kit is expected to be launched early next year, and it is suitable for households that might not fit into the typical nuclear family structure.
MSF said at a media briefing: “Strategies in the toolbox are practical in nature and (therefore), any profile of family should be able to use it.”
It added that the toolkit is “not your typical, very dense, structured parenting programme”.
“These are evidence-based strategies taken from research such that diverse kinds of profiles would find the strategies easy to use on a day-to-day basis.”
The toolkit also serves to combat any stigma parents might have against mental health conditions, with information on mental health literacy, children’s mental well-being and tips on how to detect early signs of distress in children.
BUILDING RESILIENCE FROM A YOUNG AGE
A recent national health survey found that the highest proportion of people with poor mental health were from the 18 to 29 age group.
That is why the task force is looking to scale up ongoing efforts to build mental and socio-emotional resilience in the young by introducing emotional development lessons in preschools.
This is led by the Early Childhood Development Agency, which will make available resources and training for early childhood educators.
As for improving mental health literacy and reducing stigma, some of the initiatives detailed in the national strategy report include:
Incorporating mental health education lessons in the refreshed Character and Citizenship Education curriculum in schools, where students will learn how to strengthen their mental well-being and overcome challengesProgrammes run by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) for students to equip them with skills on how to deal with stress, overwhelming emotions, interpersonal conflicts and life transitions. These programmes are conducted during critical years, such as when students go from preschool to Primary 1 and from Primary 6 to Secondary 1Workshops by HPB to train educators and parents in basic mental health literacy and emerging youth-related issues Training more than 1,400 students from institutes of higher learning to be peer supporters, conducted by HPB from January to August this year. These students offer a listening ear, provide support for their peers who show signs of emotional distress, and encourage them to seek helpCommunity mental health teams led by the youth have been formed to raise mental health awareness and encourage young people to seek help early beyond the school setting
These efforts will be expanded and targeted at children aged seven years and above.
USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND DIGITAL TOOLS
Even though social media has always been a double-edged sword when it comes to emotional and mental health, the task force recognises that outright banning of social media usage is not ideal either.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said: “We are unlikely to go the way of China when it comes to young people owning personal devices.”
It was referring to the Cyberspace Administration of China proposing rules that will see people under 18 banned from accessing the internet on mobile devices from 10pm to 6am. Different age groups will be allowed certain durations a day to use their phones, for example.
As part of MOE’s 2030 masterplan to develop digitally literate learners, secondary school students have their own personal learning devices such as iPads.
MOE has so far strengthened cyber wellness education in schools and institutes of higher learning by training and nurturing students to be discerning, safe, respectful and responsible users in cyberspace.
The young are also taught the importance of respect and empathy, how to protect themselves and others online, and how to seek help when necessary.
HPB also provides cyber-wellness tips on MindSG, a one-stop online portal with mental health resources, targeted at teenagers and youth.
MOE recognised that although there are many negative aspects to social media usage for young people, many of them also use it as a tool for learning.
Parents play a critical role in guiding their children as they navigate the digital world and so, they will find that the upcoming toolkit mentioned earlier will help them understand the digital landscape and empower them to support their children.
A “positive use” guide on technology and social media will also be introduced to show how technology and social media can contribute to or hinder youth developmental processes.
“It’s a very fine balance, but we can’t tell them not to use it. We prefer to teach them how to use it,” MOE said.
The full report of the national strategy is available on MOH’s website.
OTHER NATIONWIDE EFFORTS TO MANAGE MENTAL HEALTH AT ALL LEVELS
Universal antenatal depression screening for pregnant women at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Pregnant women detected with moderate to high risk of antenatal depression will be referred to a clinical counsellor or psychiatrist for individualised care Enhanced inpatient psychiatric bed and rehabilitation capacity at the Institute of Mental Health. The redeveloped Alexandra Hospital will also offer expanded psychiatric servicesTraining more general practitioners (GPs) and getting them onboard the Mental Health General Practitioner Partnership Programme to provide mental health support under the national Healthier SG movement. More than 400 GPs have been trained since 2012 and 41,000 patients have tapped mental health services at private clinics and polyclinicsA tiered care model at four levels will be introduced to better organise mental health services across health and social sectors, according to how severe patients’ mental health needs are. These range from self-help and peer support at the first tier, for example, to the most intensive level of care in hospitals and specialist clinics at the fourth tierTo enhance the well-being of workers, a community of “workplace mental well-being champions” will rally senior management to put up policies and support employees’ mental well-beingProgressive employers who are committed to strengthening their employees’ mental well-being will be recognised beyond monetary incentives Collapse to view Expand to view