SAMH: Tackling Mental Health Issues Amid Fundraising Challenges
The Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) was forced to adjust its mental health services to social-distancing restrictions during the Circuit Breaker and phases of Heightened Alert.
Mental illness is a growing public health concern in Singapore. The Singapore Mental Health Study (SMHS) conducted in 2016 found that the lifetime prevalence of at least one mood, anxiety or alcohol use disorder was 13.9% in the adult population. The lifetime and 12-month prevalence of mental disorders assessed in 2016 (13.8% and 6.4%) was significantly higher than in the study conducted in 2010 (12.0% and 4.4%).
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has only heightened the risk factors associated with poor mental health such as uncertainty about the future, unemployment, fear and anxiety over the pandemic and vaccines, loss of social connections, and disruption to daily routines.
Offering help across the ages
Ms Deborah Chen, Manager of Community Partnership, Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) observes that people across different age groups have felt the impact of the pandemic at varying levels.
“We received 2,719 calls last year, an increase from 2,143 received in 2019. We also saw a 50% increase in the number of calls to our helpline between April and June 2020, compared to the same period in 2019,” says Ms. Chen.
Daily programming interruption
The pandemic has not only exacerbated mental health issues, but created additional hurdles for SAMH, a non-profit and non-government community mental health agency, which relies on public funding and donations to run its programmes.
“Prior to Covid-19, almost all our services were conducted face-to-face. During the Circuit Breaker, most of our community-based centres had to close. Only centres that supported more vulnerable persons with a diagnosis of a mental health condition could remain open. We had to adapt and offer services offsite, including online activities and therapy sessions for our beneficiaries and caregivers,” shares Chen.
“Not all our clients have the digital means — whether it’s having a suitable electronic device or being tech-savvy — to participate in virtual consultations. Therefore, we have made it a point to also keep in touch through WhatsApp and phone calls to continue providing counselling and case management support for those who need it,” she adds.
The 104-strong organisation has many service centres across Singapore, and runs a range of comprehensive programmes in rehabilitation, outreach and creative services. One of its rehabilitation programmes, SAMH MINDSET Learning Hub, trains, equips and supports clients to reintegrate into the work environment and return to everyday life.
Finding a way around
To ensure programmes continue to run without compromising on the quality of services, SAMH has had to equip its staff with laptops to facilitate their working from home, as well as waive participation fees for beneficiaries facing financial difficulties during the Circuit Breaker period as well as the phases of Heightened Alerts.
The lost opportunities for carrying out physical fundraising events in the past year has spurred the organisation to turn to alternative channels to raise awareness on mental health issues and appeal for donations, such as by creating more online campaigns through giving.sg and give.asia .
Another online campaign the general public can participate in to support SAMH’s efforts, is the #BridgesGivesBack 2021 CSR initiative. By purchasing the short story anthology ‘Letter to my Mother’ via the Bridges M&C website, you will be donating $5 to SAMH, and will enjoy free delivery of the book to any address in Singapore!
About Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH)
Established in 1968, the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) is a non-profit and non-government social service agency that provides a comprehensive range of mental health services, which include rehabilitative, outreach and creative services, to the community in Singapore.
SAMH aims to reintegrate persons with mental health issues back into society through community-based mental health programmes and services that provide rehabilitative care for these individuals, and support for their families and caregivers. With a vision to promote mental wellness for all, SAMH is committed to improve the lives of, and promote acceptance and respect for, persons with mental health issues and improve mental resilience in the community. For more information, please visit: www.samhealth.org.sg