Singapore stress levels are at an all-time high

Based on a recent study conducted by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), the top sources of stress identified by over 1000 participating Singaporeans were relating to the health impact of COVID-19, financial loss and unemployment.

We all experienced the stressful impact of the pandemic in one way or another. 

Even just to have a simple meal at the hawker, there would have to be so many considerations: mask up or down, social distancing, groups of two or five etc.

Besides that, working from home in our small HDB apartments blurred the line between our work and our personal lives. 

Changes in expectations and demands at the workplace and in dealing with the frequent changes to safe management measures (SMMs) at home or even with our children’s schools brought about a whirlwind amount of changes every month and a strong sense of kiasi.

We want to exercise our social responsibility and cooperate as much as we can but yet, the disruption caused to our lives and livelihood is just unprecedented.

Men and mental health in Singapore

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.

Unfortunately for the men in Singapore, men seem to fare much worse when dealing with mental health. 

In 2021, the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) reported that men made up about 70% of all suicides. One contributing factor highlighted is that men are less likely to ask for professional help than women.

According to SOS, there remains a perception among men that “help-seeking is associated with loss of status, damage of identity, dependence, incompetence and loss of control and autonomy.”

This Asian notion of masculinity where men are discouraged from exhibiting physical or mental weakness brings about significant stress from self-perceived inadequacies in living up to the ideals of a man.

Mental health support in Singapore

With stress levels at an all-time high in Singapore, it is also alarming to note that Singapore has one of the lowest rates of psychiatrists among similar high-income nations, with approximately 2.8 psychiatrists for every 100,000 residents. 

By comparison, another comparable high-income nation such as Australia has 13.5 psychiatrists per 100,000 residents. 

It was also found that among Singaporeans who do not wish to seek professional help for mental health issues relating to the pandemic, 80% prefer to manage issues by themselves. 

50% prefer to seek help from family or friends first. Other reasons cited were financial issues and privacy concerns. Interestingly, only 15% of Singaporeans believed it would not help.

There are some positive trends in Singapore as it relates to mental health and this article explores how society is changing.

Benefits of just talking it out

Choosing to suffer in silence can be deadly. A 2013 study by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester showed that suppressing one’s emotions can increase chances of premature death from all causes by more than 30%.

Mental health, like physical health, is about wellness rather than illness.

Talk therapy, often referred to as counselling or a more professional term that you might have come across “cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)” – have found to have similar or even a higher level of effectiveness compared to medications.

CBT is an evidence-based form of talk therapy or psychotherapy that is commonly used to successfully treat mental health problems like anxiety and depression; it is also useful for physical health problems. It involves specialised techniques to teach and equip one with helpful ways of coping with distress.

Other than mental and physical health issues, CBT has also been found to be effective in the form of marriage counselling or couple therapy for our social and relational issues.

Our physical and mental health are inherently connected, the stress from physical health issues can affect one’s mental health detrimentally and vice versa. A holistic treatment approach involves caring for both body and mind – and this very often results in the best outcomes.  

Where to get mental health help in Singapore

Top 5 sources of help cited by Singaporeans for mental health include our neighbourhood GPs or family doctors, counsellors, polyclinic doctors, psychiatrists and religious or spiritual advisors.  

1.     GPs, family doctors and polyclinics

Our friendly neighbourhood GPs, family doctors and polyclinic doctors are probably the first treatment option that come to mind whenever we have a health concern. 

GPs are able to prescribe medications such as anti-depressants. However, many GPs, family doctors and polyclinics are restricted by short consultation time and long clinic queues especially with COVID-19 still lurking around in different forms.

These doctors can refer you to a mental health specialist after you visit them, but it might take several weeks if not months to get an appointment.

Furthermore, antidepressants may help in the short-term but they are often plagued by a myriad of side effects.

It is generally advised that CBT or talk therapy be the first approach when dealing with mental health concerns, and medications to be combined with CBT for the best outcomes.   

2. National Care Hotline (free)

There is a free hotline that Singaporeans can access to seek mental health help.

The National Care Hotline (NCH) aims to provide emotional support and psychological first aid to people with mental health issues as well as marital and family-related matters. 

Call officers include psychologists, social workers and counsellors, trained to identify and attend to callers’ needs by providing a listening ear, suggesting coping strategies and providing relevant information to help reduce immediate distress and anxieties.

Other than the National Care Hotline, the Singapore government also provides a list of online counselling services and even hotlines for Mandarin speakers providing emotional or psychological support.

3.     Counsellors and psychologists

Counsellors and psychologists are often seen as the experts in talk therapy as they receive professional training for these purposes. 

In Singapore, counsellors and psychologists are regulated by the Singapore Association for Counselling and Singapore Psychological Society. These bodies provide guidance on their professional and ethical conduct of their respective professions.

Counselling services vary in their costs. 

4.     Religious or Spiritual Advisors

They come in all forms in our multi-religious society. They may not be professionally trained for talk therapy but well sometimes all we need is just a listening ear and a community of support.

In Singapore, a study found that religiosity leads to higher levels of life satisfaction. This echoes what we know in global studies as well that actively religious people are more likely than their less religious peers to describe themselves as “very happy”

5.     SIRE – a specialised men’s health clinic

Here at SIRE, we look into specific men’s health issues that society shy away from talking about.

Physical health and mental wellness play a big role in sexual issues and we are here to help.

Medications and professional counselling services specific to erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, sex addiction, marriage counselling and sex therapy are available here.

We designed our mental health services to suit the needs of Singaporean men who need privacy, convenience and a connection with their counsellor.

Virtual consultations for your comfort and convenience 

One of the biggest benefits of a virtual consultation is that you’ll be able to do it in the comfort of your own home.

It’s always a bit unsettling when you have to go to a clinic with new surroundings. Eliminating this barrier helps you get at ease in order to share your issues.

Male-specific counselling

The most important aspect that leads to a positive outcome during counselling involves a connection with your counsellor.

At SIRE, we have always focused on men and our counselling service is no different.

Our counsellors have a specific focus on the specific issues men face. For example, our counsellors can help you build sexual confidence with your partner, or improve your confidence related to your physical features.

We aim to create a healthier understanding of masculinity in Singapore so that you overcome the psychological barriers impeding you from performing at your best.

Psychological and physical assistance in house

Studies have shown that effective results are more commonly seen when medications are combined with psychological therapy.

At SIRE, we focus on close collaboration between doctors and counselling. If a doctor or counsellor feels you need physical or mental health assistance, we can refer you in-house for further help.

From simple concerns about sexual performance to just wanting to talk about basic relationship issues, or just to find out if you have a problem – SIRE is a MOH-licensed men’s health specialist that offers discreet online consultations at your comfort and privacy.

Book an appointment with us today.


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