Young people with mental health issues will soon be able to get help closer to home under a new program

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SINGAPORE – Young people facing mental health issues will soon be able to receive care closer to home under a new community-based programme.

Four social service agencies (SSAs) have been enlisted as part of a pilot project to help people aged 13 to 19 who have mild to moderate symptoms.

Through this initiative, they will get help for conditions such as stress-related disorders, depression, addictions and self-harming behaviors.

The program will cover two groups of young people. These are those who have sought help from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) but have not been admitted and may still need community support, and those who have been discharged from a psychiatric ward or receiving follow-up treatment in specialist clinics.

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Halimah noted in her speech that there are also many people who fear being stigmatized by seeking help at IMH.

“More can be done to build a community of care, by equipping SSAs with the capacity to provide baseline assessment and timely interventions,” she said.

The PC-IMH program will serve as an important bridge between hospitalization and home care for young people with mental health issues, she added.

IMH will compile and provide a set of common training requirements for all four SSAs. The training will focus on interview and assessment techniques, as well as understanding common mental health issues.

Associate Professor Lee Cheng, Clinical Director of IMH in the Office of Population Health, said: “Recovering from a mental health issue is often daunting for our young people, but if there is a partner in social services that accompanies them, they can be better assured of a good recovery.”

Such an initiative follows the increase in the incidence of mental health problems among young people in recent years. Ms. Halimah noted that the number of visits to the IMH for depression increased by about 60% between 2015 and 2020.

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