Youth with mental health issues can soon get help closer to home under new programme

The Straits Times

Youth with mental health issues can soon get help closer to home under new programme

SINGAPORE - Young people facing mental health issues can soon receive care closer to their homes under a new community-based programme.

Four social service agencies (SSAs) have been roped in under a pilot to help those aged between 13 and 19, and who have mild-to-moderate symptoms.

Under the initiative, they will get help for conditions such as stress-related disorders, depression, addictions and self-harm behaviour.

The programme will cover two groups of youth. They are those who have sought help at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) but were not admitted and may still require some community support, and those who were discharged from a psychiatric ward or are receiving follow-up treatment at specialist clinics.

The programme, launched by President Halimah Yacob on Tuesday (March 15), will be run by Club Heal, Singapore Association For Mental Health (SAMH), Singapore Children's Society and Touch Community Services.

It is funded by the President's Challenge (PC) charity in conjunction with IMH.

The pilot will be carried out in phases, starting with SSAs recruiting allied health professionals such as psychologists and social workers.

Training will be carried out by IMH for these staff from April to December, and IMH will start referring cases to the SSAs from January next year.

Madam Halimah noted in her speech that there are also many who fear stigmatisation in seeking help at IMH.

"More can be done to build a community of care, by equipping SSAs with the capabilities to provide basic assessment and timely interventions," she said.

The PC-IMH programme will serve as an important bridge between hospitalisation and home care for youth with mental health issues, she added.

IMH will compile and provide a set of common training requirements to the four SSAs. The training will cover interview and assessment skills, as well as an understanding of the common mental health conditions.

Associate Professor Lee Cheng, IMH clinical director at the Office of Population Health, said: "Recovering from a mental health condition is often daunting for our youth, but if there is a social service partner journeying with them, they can be better assured of a good recovery."

Such an initiative comes on the back of the rising incidence of mental health issues among youth in recent years. Madam Halimah noted that the number seen at IMH for depression has increased by about 60 per cent between 2015 and 2020.