Tan Weng Mooi, Pharm D

Trained as a pharmacist, Weng Mooi was instrumental in the development and implementation of the National Community Mental Health Plan and support system for almost a decade. She helped to conceptualise an integrated community mental health and dementia ecosystem, driving the implementation in primary and long-term care; developing integrated network and collaborative partnerships, integrating health, social and community care.

She joined MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation in November 2020. Her role is to co-lead the development of healthy precinct frameworks and leverage on technology to build up mental wellness and resiliency in the community and workplaces. Prior to the current role, Weng Mooi led the Caregiving and Community Mental Health division at Agency for Integrated Care (AIC).

Was it an interest in mental health that first brought you to the industry?

Since I was young I’ve always had an interest in human behaviour and psychology. When I did my university studies in Canada, I debated between pharmacy and psychology, but went with the former due to pragmatic reason as psychologist as a profession is not even heard of in the small town where I grew up.

My journey in mental healthcare started 14 years ago when I returned to the public healthcare system. There was an opportunity in IMH and they needed someone to help manage the inpatient department, and subsequently the implementation of the National Mental Health Blueprint and the development of the National Addiction Management Services.

What changes have you seen in the general attitudes towards mental health, and what more can be done?

On the senior side, things have improved significantly, more people are beginning to understand and accept seniors with dementia. MOH has also put in a lot of resources to re-develop and build new residential and centre-based care as well as community support for seniors. When I joined IMH in 2006, there were less than five organisations supporting people with dementia and mental health issues in the community, now we have 25 to 30 partners.

But with the other segments, in terms of acceptance and stigma, we’re still not there. I believe we need to create a more holistic and person-centric strategy, what I call SEED - System, Empowerment Enablement, and Destigmatisation.

System refers to integrated services and support system for the persons and their caregivers. Empowerment is about education, be it knowledge or skills training to enable the clients to live and be engaged meaningfully and caregivers to better care and support their loved ones. Regardless of age, to be able to have access to new knowledge and continuous learning will help to enrich their lives. Enablement is the policy, technology, and the social system including employment, housing and community support network involving grassroots and volunteers, police and government agencies that can support them to live and age well in the community. Destigmatisation is of course about creating more awareness about mental health, that people with mental health issues are not “scary” and with supportive environment like understanding colleagues, friends, peers and employers, they can live and function well. Community and organisations/businesses should provide them with opportunities and support. Together, we can then create a ripple effect in changing the mindset of the society on mental health.

What’s your favourite way to self-care?

I usually go swimming and go for a walk. I also spend 10 to 15 minutes each day doing a little meditation and that really helps me to relax.