Mental health issues have been in the spotlight more than ever recently, especially considering the potential toll that COVID-19 is taking on Singaporeans. The pandemic and its fallout – including circuit breaker measures and an expected prolonged period of recession – have undoubtedly exacerbated the psychological effects of social isolation, family tensions, and anxieties about the future.
Among the top mental health-related concerns are the rising cases of depression among working adults; distress caused by disruption to daily routines (often used as coping mechanisms for patients with dementia or bipolar disorder); and a danger of relapse due to reduced access to face-to-face therapy.
And this isn’t just happening to Singapore. In the United States, there have been reports of significantly more symptoms related to depression and anxiety since the pandemic, and doctors in the UK are also calling for an urgent response to the escalating risk of citizens falling victim to depression and self-harm.
As recent developments have highlighted the importance of better mental healthcare and awareness across the globe, here are 4 useful things we believe every Singaporean should know about mental health in Singapore:
1 in 7 Singaporeans will develop a mental health condition over their lifetime
The 2016 Singapore Mental Health Study found that 1 in 7 Singaporeans (13.9%) experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, an increase from 1 in 8 (12%) in 2010.
All mental disorders studied showed an increase in lifetime prevalence, but the two with the most statistically significant increase were generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and alcohol abuse.
Recognising that mental health issues are not as rare as we might think should motivate us to be more empathetic, and to treat those with mental disorders with dignity and respect. It should also make us less fearful of opening up and seeking help if we believe we might be suffering from mental health issues.
You can use your employee sick leave for mental health treatment or recovery
Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad confirms that sick leave entitlements can be used for both physical and mental health conditions, and doctors should not indicate the nature of your medical condition when issuing a medical certificate unless you have consented to it.
According to the MOM website: “To qualify for paid sick leave, you must be certified to be unfit for work by a medical practitioner registered under the Medical Registration Act or Dental Registration Act.”
There is no requirement that “unfit” should be defined as mental or physical fitness.
You do not have to declare your mental health condition in a job application
According to the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP), employers should not ask about your mental health condition unless it will affect your ability to perform your role (like in the case for military personnel, or police officers).
In fact, the guidelines state that employers should not ask for any personal information, including age, race, religion, gender, and more, that does not affect your ability to perform on the job.
If you’ve experienced or witnessed workplace discrimination or harassment due to any of the above, including mental health issues, report it to TAFEP.
You can get health insurance coverage for mental health issues
There are various health insurance policies in Singapore, including Integrated Shield Plans (IPs), Critical Illness (CI), and Disability Income policies, that provide coverage for mental health issues.
The Medisave Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP) also covers mental health conditions like major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety, dementia, and schizophrenia, and allows you to use your Medisave for your own or your family members’ mental health needs.
Do take note that the CDMP is only applicable to outpatient treatment for these five diseases, and you can claim up to $500 per Medisave account per year, subject to a 15% co-payment in cash.
How is the government raising mental health awareness in Singapore?
The Singapore government is stepping up to address mental health issues in Singapore. Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad shared in his Committee of Supply speech on 3 March 2020 that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will form a Tripartite Advisory to educate employers on how to improve mental well-being in the workplace, such as providing employees with access to anonymised external counselling, or training supervisors to identify early mental health symptoms.
Recognising the increasing importance of mental well-being, resilience, and self-care, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will also be rolling out a Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum in primary and secondary schools by 2021 that covers mental health and peer support.
According to Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah, the curriculum will help students recognise and understand common mental health issues, and know when to seek help for themselves and others. It also hopes to develop empathy and care towards those suffering from mental health issues, and to destigmatise mental illness in Singapore.
Where can I get help for mental health issues in Singapore?
If you need someone to speak to about your mental well-being, or need help coping with mental health issues, you can reach out to:
This article is for general information only and does not take into account the specific investment objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of AXA Insurance Pte Ltd and should not be construed as the provision of advice or making of any recommendation. There is no intention to distribute, or offer to sell, or solicit any offer to purchase any product. We recommend that you seek the advice of a qualified financial advisory professional before making any decision to purchase an insurance or investment product. Whilst we have taken reasonable care to ensure that all information provided was obtained from reliable sources and correct at time of publishing, information may become outdated and opinions may change. We are not liable for any loss that may result from the access or use of the information herein provided.
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