Forum: Department of Health takes multi-pronged approach to support those in crisis

We thank Mr. Delane Lim for his letter and agree that early identification and encouraging help-seeking is essential for suicide prevention (Equipping people with skills to be “life keepers”, September 5).

Suicide is a complex and multifaceted problem. A whole-of-society approach is needed to build mental resilience to prevent suicide.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) takes a multi-pronged approach to suicide prevention based on four key strategies: building mental resilience, encouraging help-seeking and early identification, supporting at-risk groups, and providing a crisis support.

We also develop appropriate life stage interventions to help and support those at risk.

To build mental resilience, the Health Promotion Board runs mental wellness programs and workshops for students and working adults. These initiatives aim to teach individuals how to deal with stress and distressing emotions.

The Samaritans of Singapore also run programs on identifying the warning signs of suicide and where to seek help.

The Department of Education has trained teachers and staff to identify signs of student distress, monitor their well-being and provide support alongside school counsellors. Students who need additional support are referred by school counselors to the Community Mental Health Intervention, Early Intervention and Assessment Teams for mental health assessment and intervention.

All schools have peer support structures to teach students to care for each other and to encourage a distressed peer to seek help from trusted adults like parents, teachers and counsellors.

In the community, young people can call on the Community Health Assessment Team awareness and support group, which offers easy access to mental health resources and help through different channels for people aged 16 to 30.

The Mental Health Institute’s crisis response team, which started last year, is responding to calls from Singapore police regarding cases of attempted suicides. This multidisciplinary team assesses suicidal people on site and directs them to appropriate intervention and follow-up management. The team received an average of 32 calls per month from March 2021 to October 2021.

Recognizing that suicide prevention requires multi-sector efforts, we created the Inter-Agency Research Working Group on Youth Suicides to study the issues surrounding youth suicides and facilitate closer collaboration between agencies.

The Department of Health will continue to work with various stakeholders to ensure that we provide holistic support to people in crisis.

Jeannie Tey (Dr.)

Director, Integration and Development of Health Services

Ministry of Health

Melvin B. Baillie