Associate Professor Daniel Fung, CEO, IMH

Dr Daniel Fung is the Chief Executive Officer of Singapore’s Institute of Mental Health since Feb 2021 and was its Chairman Medical Board from 2011 to 2020. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor at all 3 medical schools in Singapore, and is currently the President of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions and President Elect of the College of Psychiatrists, Academy of Medicine Singapore.

Dr Fung is interested in the treatment of emotional and behavioural disorders in children and has advocated for the development of child mental health services and strategies through his research. His current interest is in developing age appropriate, culturally relevant, locally sensitive resources to improve mental health literacy and reduce stress and suicidality in youths and families.

IMH has been a key partner to Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL), referring caregivers in need to CAL's programmes and support services. This ensures that caregivers are well-supported and well-equipped to continue providing care to their loved ones.

IMH is a key partner to CAL, referring caregivers in need to CAL’s programmes and services. Are you able to share any examples of patients and families that you have encountered that have benefited from CAL’s programme and services?

Caregiver 1: A mother was referred to CAL for additional support for managing her son’s condition. Through CAL’s 12-week C2C Programme, she was able to understand her son’s diagnosis better and was empowered to detect signs of early relapse. The programme’s peer support group also allowed her to meet and bond with other families that were facing similar crises which, in turn, inspired her to become an advocate herself to support caregivers in their caregiving journey. By sharing her own experiences and struggles as a caregiver, she was able to grow stronger in her role as a caregiver and give strength to her son and fellow peers.

Caregiver 2: We referred a struggling mother to CAL for support when her young adult son was diagnosed with psychosis. As the family was facing problems with the patient’s treatment compliance and symptom management at home, it caused a lot of distress within the family. Despite not having a good understanding of the illness and its management, she really wanted her son’s condition to improve so that he can be well enough to work, and was receptive to extensive psychoeducation from IMH’s case managers and be referred to CAL. Thanks to the additional classes and support by CAL, the mother is now able to manage caregiving stress better and appreciates the support she has received in managing her son’s condition.

What advice do you have for caregivers out there who may be struggling with mental illness in the family?

Caring for someone with mental illness is a stressful challenge, and you may experience various issues and problems along the way. However, if the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can take a huge toll on your own health – both physical and mental – and can eventually lead to burnout. When you get to this point, both you and the person you are caring for suffer.

So, it is important to recognise the signs and symptoms of caregiver stress and burnout. Immediate action can be taken to then prevent the issues from worsening. I encourage all caregivers not to forget to take care of yourselves physically and emotionally. Don’t feel guilty if you need to take time out to rest and relax. Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury.

In your opinion, what do we need to do to end the stigma around mental health issues?

Stigma is not something that will go away on its own, but it has certainly improved for the better. We need to work together as a community to create a society where people with mental health conditions need not be fearful of seeking help or be subject to discriminatory practices. Improving mental health literacy through education is crucial in reducing stigma. For me, I believe schools are a good place to start and we are glad to be working with the education ministry to introduce mental health literacy – such as learning about common mental health problems, equipping them with skills to manage stress, the avenues to seek help – in the curriculum. In fact, I find that the youths today are more aware of mental health issues and are talking about their mental health struggles among their peers. We are also seeing national policies shift to include people with mental health conditions, and the pandemic has really forced people to finally start noticing that it is important to take care of their mental health, just like their physical health.

Acknowledging Key Supporters of CAL

A/Prof Swapna Verma

Chairman, Medical Board, IMH

A/Prof Swapna joined IMH in 2001 and was the Chief and Programme Director of the Early Psychosis Intervention Programme (EPIP) from 2006 to 2016. On 1 December 2020, she was appointed Chairman, Medical Board of IMH.

She was CAL's ex-board member, and an active member of CAL's #YOLO2020 campaign to trek to Everest Base Camp to raise awareness of mental health and caregiving.

Adj A/Prof Lee Cheng

Vice Chairman, Medical Board (Clinical), IMH

Adj A/Prof Lee Cheng is a practising psychiatrist and a senior consultant at IMH.

Adj A/Prof Lee Cheng has been a key supporter of CAL's work. In 2019, Dr Lee attended CAL's Caregivers Connect, a conference for caregivers, as a Guest Speaker.

He is currently a Board member of Silver Ribbon Singapore, and Vice President for Singapore Association for Mental Health.

Dr Leong Jern-Yi Joseph

Senior Consultant

Dr Joseph Leong has been working at IMH since 2000. He currently serves as Deputy Program Director of Community Mental Health Team.

He shares his expertise in Psycho-Social Rehabilitation and Recovery as an Expert Advisor to start up several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) such Club HEAL, Caregiver Alliance, Hougang Care Center and St Andrew’s Nursing Home and Caring for Life.

He currently serves on the Board of the Singapore Association for Mental Health and Caring for Life, and is also the current President for the Association for Psychiatric Rehabilitation (Singapore)