'Not just about building more capacity at IMH': DPM Wong on enhancing mental health care in Singapore

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Mental health issues lie on a spectrum that needs a broad suite of solutions, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament on Wednesday (Feb 7).

DPM Wong, who is also Finance Minister, spoke in support of a motion tabled by five People's Action Party MPs on advancing mental health in Singapore.

"The government is making mental health and well-being a key priority in our national agenda," he said.

DPM Wong also laid out key plans and targets that the government aims to achieve by 2030.

One of them is to increase the capacity at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), the redeveloped Alexandra Hospital and long-term care facilities.

Another is to increase the number of public sector psychiatrists and psychologists by about 30 and 40 per cent respectively.

But DPM Wong also noted that improving mental health is "not just about hiring more psychiatrists or building more capacity at the IMH".

Describing treating mental health issues as "the same when we have a physical ailment", Wong added: "We don't go to a specialist for treatment immediately when we experience some symptoms of ill health. Instead, we first see our family doctor.

He said: "We also need to strengthen capabilities across our entire spectrum of care, including at our polyclinics and GPs, and across other settings like schools, workplaces, and the community, so that more timely support can be rendered to those in need."

He announced that mental health services will be introduced to all polyclinics and 900 more general practitioner clinics, as well as an additional 28,000 frontline personnel and volunteers will be trained to help identify those struggling with mental health issues.

The government will also redouble existing efforts on improving mental health and well-being, DPM Wong said.

He noted that the education ministry is on track to achieving its target of deploying over 1000 teacher-counsellors across schools, on top of training all teachers to have basic counselling skills as well as equipping every school with one to two counsellors.

More peer support networks will also be established in schools, workplaces and amongst national servicemen.

Since Tuesday, over 20 MPs took part in a debate on advancing mental health in Singapore. 

Some of them highlighted the long waiting times and difficulty in obtaining appointments at public sector institutions for mental health as well as the limited ...

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