singapore 'Evaluation measures for students' well-being, 4-day work week': MPs suggest ways to promote good mental health

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SINGAPORE — Mental health was in the spotlight in Parliament on Feb 6, as more than 20 MPs spoke on ways to improve care and raise societal acceptance in a debate on advancing mental health.

The debate followed the October 2023 launch of the National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy, which aims to create a comprehensive ecosystem for people with mental health needs to receive support and help early in community settings, without stigma.

The Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being, which came up with the strategy, said the idea is to bring mental health support closer to where people live, study, work and socialise.

Political office-holders are expected to join the debate on Feb 7, when they will articulate the Government's response.

Here are the key suggestions made by the MPs.

Individuals, families, caregivers

Mental health is a matter that touches every individual, and it must be recognised not just as a part of the country's healthcare system but also as a cornerstone of societal well-being and economic stability, said Dr Wan Rizal (Jalan Besar GRC).

While individuals need to do their part to maintain their mental health, some may need more help. For instance, more resources can be channelled to support programmes for caregivers of persons with mental illnesses.

There was also a call to deepen support to more vulnerable parents in order to help their children who have mental health needs.

Seniors also need to be a focus in fast-ageing Singapore, said MPs. They noted challenges such as social isolation and navigating an increasingly digital world.

Youth mental health

Many MPs focused their speeches on this group, with suggestions on measuring students' well-being systemically, just as how their academic studies are monitored. This could be in the form of questionnaires, for instance.

Some questions raised included whether all teachers have received adequate training on mental health literacy, and whether larger schools have enough counsellors.

Schools must be more accommodating of students' mental health needs, including at critical transition points, and there should be more consistency in how schools meet these needs.

This cannot be left to the personal ambitions or dispositions of school leaders, said Mariam Jaafar (Sembawang GRC).

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