Mental health budget announcements a good step, but more needs to be done: advocates
SINGAPORE — Advocates for veterans’ mental health welcome recent budget announcements on the issue, particularly that the government plans to establish a permanent mental health office.
But they told the Straits Times that more needs to be done in several areas, including funding, support for young people and a national mental health competency framework.
During the March 9 debate, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Janil Puthucheary, said the government would consider setting up a national office for mental wellbeing.
MP named Shahira Abdullah, who asked about it in parliament, told ST she was glad to hear his response.
“Mental health issues permeate all ministries. I think it is very important that with every decision and policy that we come up with, we consider mental health as something important, not just an aside. works, you have to have a desk to keep everything coordinated,” she noted.
Adding that such offices have already been set up for issues such as climate change and digitalization, she said she hopes to see concrete steps taken for the establishment of such office in the future.
Dr Shahira added: “A task force is transient – you have it for that period of time. But mental health is not something transient, it’s not temporary. It’s something in which you need to invest now.”
Mental health advocates said that currently the issues are handled by different ministries.
Ms. Porsche Poh, Executive Director of Silver Ribbon (Singapore), shared her previous experience of being bounced around from one ministry to another while trying to work with authorities on mental health initiatives.
“If you have an office, it will help you focus – people won’t confuse the ministry of mental health,” she said, adding that other countries have a minister of mental health, including Singapore. could be inspired.
Mr. Asher Low, executive director of Limitless, said the mental health office can help increase coordination between departments, as well as create a pooled fund, which will allow social service agencies (SSAs) to more easily apply for renewed funding.
He hopes that if the office is set up, he will engage SSAs and find out what their needs are, as most are overwhelmed by high caseloads and lack funding.
For example, he added, a therapist should ideally care for around 40 clients. But last year, the seven Limitless therapists were contacted by 937 young people, more than three times that.
Ms Anthea Ong, founding member and spokesperson for SG Mental Health Matters, said that compared to a task force, a permanent office with dedicated resources will be better placed to look at long-term solutions and focus on action. upstream preventive measures.
A permanent office located under the prime minister’s office rather than a single ministry will also have the power to better facilitate inter-ministerial collaboration, the former appointed MP said.