SINGAPORE: A new programme was launched on Tuesday (Mar 15) to boost community-based support for youth with mental health conditions.
Under the President’s Challenge-Institute of Mental Health (IMH) programme, four social service agencies will be trained by IMH to manage these cases.
"As the domain expert, IMH will curate and provide a set of common training to the four SSAs (social service agencies) to equip them with the necessary skills to manage the referred youth cases from IMH," said the President's office in a media release.
"Care for these youths will be right-sited within the community, so that they can receive the essential secondary interventions and psychosocial support nearer to home."
Launching the programme on Tuesday, President Halimah Yacob said there are currently “very few” youth-centric community-based mental health services.
“By taking this stepped care approach, we can ensure that the mental health needs of these youths are well-managed while they stay at home to recuperate,” she said.
The programme will serve youth with mental health conditions between 13 and 19 years old who sought help at the IMH emergency room but were not admitted although they may still require some community support. It will also support youths who were discharged from the psychiatric ward or were receiving follow-ups in the specialist clinics.
Madam Halimah noted that these groups of youth - whose needs are not severe enough to be admitted and those who require care after discharge from IMH - are people who need more help from the current system.
“More can be done to build a community of care by equipping social service agencies with the capabilities to provide basic assessment and timely interventions for these youths,” Mdm Halimah said.
The President’s Challenge-IMH programme will serve as an “important bridge” between hospitalisation and home-care for youths with mental health issues, she added.
The four social service agencies onboard the programme are Club HEAL, Singapore Association for Mental Health, Singapore Children’s Society and TOUCH Community Services.
Beyond providing training, IMH will also hold regular case conferences with the social service agencies and have case managers function as a single point of contact to ensure a smooth transition of care, the President's Office said.
“Recovering from a mental health condition is often daunting for our youths, but if there is a social service partner journeying with them, they can be better assured of a good recovery," said Associate Professor Lee Cheng, clinical director at IMH's the Office of Population Health.
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COVID-19 has highlighted concerns about the mental health of children around the world, said Mdm Halimah.
"Many studies have looked into the undisputable effects of the pandemic on youth mental state. Yet, even more worrying is that this may just represent the tip of the iceberg, and one that we may have ignored for too long," she added.
The President cited the latest flagship report by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) – the State of the World’s Children report – which revealed a “sobering trend” of rising psychological distress among youths around the world.
For instance, the rate of depression among adolescents in the United States increased from 8.5 per cent to 13.2 per cent between 2005 and 2017, she noted.
“Sadly, similar trends are also seen in Singapore,” she said.
From 2015 to 2020, the number of adolescents seen at IMH for depression increased by about 60 per cent, Mdm Halimah said, adding that anecdotally, people also hear of more students facing stress-related issues over time.
Mdm Halimah said she is confident that the President's Challenge-IMH programme, funded by President’s Challenge, with contributions from the Ngee Ann Kongsi and Raffles Medical Group, will help to uplift the capabilities of the social sector to support youths in a familiar setting.
“I urge more social service agencies to join us in supporting our youths with mental health needs,” she added.