May is Mental Health Awareness month, and I’ve been getting lots of queries on how to seek help for mental health issues in Singapore.
I’m going to start off first with this: I’m not an expert in the field of mental health. My knowledge is severely limited to the little I’d picked up studying Psychology back in university, my personal research on the topic, and well, my life.
I’ve taken to look at my own tussle with mental illnesses as a continuous experiment and discovery. I’d been personally diagnosed with depression, panic disorder, and PTSD. And recently, the cocktail got a bit more exciting with the addition of bipolar disorder. I’ve learnt to make friends with these – to acknowledge their presence and then figure out how to still best live my life in spite and because of it all.
Through sharing it, I hope not to give a clear and cookie cutter view on it but to offer the insight that it’s not something to be feared, and that we don’t have to be alone in this often scary and confusing journey. I also wish to shed light on the many avenues for help available.
Now, you’re reading this post possibly because you’re struggling with your own mental health, or you have a loved one who is. You’re not alone. According to a study done by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in 2010, 12% of Singapore’s population has had mental health disorders in their lifetime.
I’m a firm believer of seeking professional help for mental health issues, alongside practicing self-care, developing healthy habits and cultivating authentic relationships. Below, I’ve listed some of the ways to seek help in Singapore.
- See a psychologist in a polyclinic.
You can get a referral from the GP (i.e. go for normal consultation at the polyclinic then request for a referral to see a psychologist).You may also be referred to a psychiatrist. The doctors may prescribe you medication such as anti-depressants, though it is generally advised (and I personally vouch for this) to take up psychotherapy/counselling with or without medication.
Psychology services are available at Ang Mo Kio, Hougang, Toa Payoh, Woodlands and Yishun Polyclinics. They can also refer you to community support services, such as Club Heal and Singapore Association for Mental Health.Do note that it may take some time before you can get an appointment with the psychologist. If it is urgent and you have the resources to spend, you may want to choose to visit private practices.
- Get a mental health check at CHAT Hub.
If you are between 16 and 30 years old, you can visit CHAT, or the Community Health Assessment Team, a national outreach and mental health check programme under the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).They run CHAT Hub, which is conveniently located at **Scape, 2 Orchard Link, #05-05. They conduct mental health checks, which is a confidential face-to-face consultation with qualified mental health professionals, available for young people currently residing in Singapore.
Through this session, you could gain an understanding of your mental wellbeing and get the help you need. They can also link you up to the appropriate support if you are agreeable.
- Seek help at your school’s psychology/counselling service centre.
If you are still a student, your institution will most likely have psychology or support services. Secondary schools, tertiary institutions and universities in Singapore have trained professionals, especially counsellors, to support you through your mental illness. I personally have utilised the services at NUS’ University Health Centre and NIE Wellness Centre.
- Go the Private Practice Route.
If you need help within a short period of time and cannot afford to wait, plus have the resources to spend, I’d recommend going to GPs/Family Doctors who can refer you to mental health specialists in private practice. If you choose the private practice route, you can get appointments much faster than going through the public health system, and you’ll stick to one specialist throughout your treatment with them, but note that they are not subsidised and are much more expensive. Some may offer financial assistance though, so remember to ask!
- Seek online counselling.
Apps like BetterHelp and websites like 7cups have been useful for myself and many of my friends who struggle with mental heath issues, largely due to its convenience and ease of use.
- Refer to the Mental Health Services Resource Directory.
This is a directory put together by the National Council of Social Services (NCSS) that includes helplines for support for general mental health, addictions, senior citizens and caregivers.
Admittedly, professional help such as therapy and medication is one of many ways to get help and support for mental health. Meaningful and healthy relationships are also important, something I will write about in greater detail soon. For now, if you’re looking for ways to support a loved one or you’re trying to find some sense of community, The Mighty is a fantastic resource I keep going back to. They have many articles on their website as well as their Facebook page.
I hope this is useful! Feel free to share this post widely – you’ll never know who might need it. Many people are struggling in silence. If you are, I hope you’ll find the strength and courage to seek help.
Note: If you are suicidal or have thoughts for self-harm, call the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) at 1800-221-4444 or the Institute of Mental Health’s mobile crisis service at 6389-2222. You can also head down to the Accident & Emergency (A&E) Department of the nearest hospital for someone to attend to you.
Lots of love,