Staying sane in S'pore: The impact of coronavirus on mental health

·Contributor
·5 min read
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The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic continues to affect our daily lives in a wide range of ways. The last year has not been easy, from mask-wearing and getting vaccinated to upheavals in our work and social environments. All of our everyday stresses and our pre-existing mental health concerns have been compounded by the additional problems brought about by living with COVID-19. It seems we could all do with a bit of extra understanding and support.

According to the Institute of Mental Health – Singapore, their study shows that one in seven people have experienced some sort of mental health issue during their lifetime. In addition, the Ministry of Health Singapore states that the five most common mental health conditions found in Singapore’s public hospitals were Schizophrenia, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar disorder and Substance Abuse. For the less serious concerns dealt with at polyclinics, the three most common were Depression, Anxiety and Insomnia.

Executive coach Yan Yi Chee from Matter Inc, works with the Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL) and says that although she does not treat mental health issues directly in her work, “even early symptoms such as anxiety can affect work performance, sometimes even aggravate it even more”.

“I also have some clients that have mental health challenges but are ‘high functioning’ in that they see a therapist or have many years of therapy work, are self-aware, could be on medication, and practise a lot of self-care. But what they need is support to manage in the workplace or support to get a suitable job role,” explains Ms Chee.

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The CAL is one such organisation that has found its workload increase due to the impact of Coronavirus on mental health. CAL is a professional non-profit organisation aimed at “meeting the needs of caregivers of persons with mental health issues through education, support networks, crisis support and self-care enablement”.

According to Tricia Lee, the Head of Communications for CAL: “As of 1 May 2021, the majority of caregivers attending our C2C classes are caring for someone with depression (27%). This is a shift from previous years where Schizophrenia was the leading mental illness.”

CAL has seen a number of increases in the number of people needing more training in caring for someone with a mental health issue. As a result, the organisation’s Individual Training & Support (ITS) programme for caregivers has increased from 132 people in 2019 to 370 in 2020.

“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental health, and there definitely have been improvements in public awareness in recent years, particularly in the area of dementia,” explains Ms Lee. “But we still have a long way to go as many caregivers, and people with mental health illness remain reluctant to reveal their conditions or seek treatment for fear of being stigmatised.”

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Ms Chee has found that she is working with more clients who need skills and training in areas like “setting boundaries, understanding strengths, setting goals and for those looking for work it could be in understanding suitable roles”.

At Matter Inc, Ms Chee says they also “try to provide as much value through frameworks, thought starters, self-care tips etc. We are trying to build a community of support in growth and development no matter what your starting point is”.

Although Matter Inc is a personal and professional coaching company, Ms Chee says that they use an approach called Integral Coaching, which connects the “mind, body and soul” together to help people move forward in their life goals.

“We are trying to make coaching and support as accessible as possible to everyone,” says Ms Chee.

WHERE TO SEEK SUPPORT & TREATMENT

Singapore Association of Mental Health (SAMH)

Counselling Helpline (Toll-Free) - 1800 283 7019

www.samhealth.org.sg

OCD Network Singapore – Support for persons with OCD ocdnetworksg.com

Samaritans of Singapore – Emotional support for anyone in crisis, thinking about or affected by suicide www.sos.org.sg

Family Services Centres – Family and Counselling Services - www.msf.gov.sg/dfcs/familyservice

Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT) – Free mental health check and support for youth aged 16-30 - www.chat.mentalhealth.sg

Caregivers Alliance – training and support for carers of people with mental health challenges www.cal.org.sg

[SINGAPORE]

For information about the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore go to https://www.gov.sg/features/covid-19.

If you are struggling with thoughts or feelings about suicide, contact SOS on 1800 221 4444 (24hrs). If you have concerns about mental health issues, contact Emergency Helpline (IMH) on 6389 2222 (24hrs). For more information and help dealing with mental health issues, go to www.healthhub.sg/findhelp_servicesformentalhealthsupport.

[MALAYSIA]

For information about the COVID-19 outbreak in Malaysia go to http://www.moh.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/2019-ncov-wuhan.

If you are struggling with thoughts or feelings about suicide, contact Lifeline on (+603) 4265 7995 (24hrs). If you have concerns about mental health issues, contact the Malaysian Mental Health Association on (+603) 7782 5499. For more information and help dealing with mental health issues, contact the Befrienders on (+603) 79568144 or (+603) 7956 8145; or go to www.befrienders.org.my.

[PHILIPPINES]

For information about the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines go to https://www.doh.gov.ph/2019-nCoV.

If you are struggling with thoughts or feelings about suicide, contact Lifeline on (02) 8969191 or 0917 854 9191. If you have concerns about mental health issues, contact the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) Crisis Hotline on 0917 899 8727 (USAP) and 989 8727 (USAP). For more information and help dealing with mental health issues, go to the National Center for Mental Health at ncmh.gov.ph.

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