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.