Mental Health in Singapore: Perception & Awareness

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With a population of close to 6 million, Singapore is a nation coping with the rise of mental health issues. One in seven people have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime according to Singapore Mental Health Study (SMHS). The three conditions that are most common among Singaporeans are major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and alcohol abuse. As such, mental health is a prevalent, escalating issue in our society that cannot be ignored. But what is mental health? What are the initiatives to combat the social stigma surrounding it? And what can be done to further enhance awareness?

Mental health is a state of overall wellbeing. It comprises of our emotions, thinking and social behavior. While we are ridged with daily challenges and deal with it the best way possible, a person with mental health problems may find it difficult to do so. They dwell in negative thoughts that circumvallates them into feeling lonely, helpless and depressed; just to name a few. At its worst, it can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts. Singapore decriminalized attempted suicide in 2020, when a review committee of the Penal Code acknowledged that people succumb to such acts out of desperation. Henceforth, they should be treated and rehabilitated and not regarded as a criminal act.

Creating Awareness on Mental Health

Society still plays a vital role in uprooting the stigma associated to mental health. It’s reported that more than three-quarters of Singaporeans who experience mental disorder don’t seek professional help. Generally, they rather not disclose their condition in fear of prejudice and discrimination. In recent episodes, cases of disruptive behavior has gone viral, causing knee-jerk reactions. Netizens and commenters are quick in labelling these behaviors as “mentally ill’. In no way, does this help create awareness on what mental health is really about. Neither does it help those suffering from mental health issues to come forth and speak about their condition.

In reality, mental health portrays a more varied symptom, and even subtle ones such as fatigue and decrease in appetite that could spiral to a more dangerous level if untreated. Singapore is on the path of combating social stigma concerning mental health. Mental health awareness campaigns and policies are in place in educating society and shifting the system to that of less prejudice and more acceptance. Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more people have come forth seeking help via mental health helplines. The younger generations are also more candid with their condition and open to share about it in social media and other platforms.

Conclusion

Nonetheless, its still a long upward battle in overcoming the odds. Despite awareness campaigns and policies in place, society still do not fully comprehend the different conditions of mental health and its associated symptoms. “Crazy” is not a blanket term to describe everyone suffering from mental health but regrettably, it has become a norm to use this word without much consideration. Whilst certain conditions such as anxiety and depression are fairly understood, there are still lack of awareness for others such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. To emerge from this stigma clouding mental health, we need firm policies and directions. But more than that, we need a paradigm shift in society’s mindset.

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