Dr Wan Rizal asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) whether there are any statistics of domestic violence cases arising from underlying mental health issues due to COVID-19 uncertainties; and (b) whether there are protocols in place for mental health frontliners to report early warning signs to prevent violence from occurring.
1. MSF does not have data on the number of family violence cases arising from underlying mental health issues due to COVID-19 uncertainties. It is challenging to collect such data, as perpetrators and survivors of family violence may not be forthcoming with MSF or community agencies regarding information on their mental health concerns. Some may also not be willing to be assessed for mental health conditions.
2. Notwithstanding the above, MSF and the National Council of Social Service’s Intergenerational Transmission of Criminality and Other Social Disadvantages study found that about 14% of persons in Singapore who applied for personal protection orders (PPOs) or who had PPO applications made against them had diagnosed mental health conditions prior to their first PPO episode. While international literature suggests that symptoms related to a perpetrator’s mental condition may result in family violence, mental health conditions, on their own, do not necessarily cause family violence. Also, a majority of persons experiencing mental health concerns do not experience or perpetrate family violence.
3. There are guidelines and protocols for our frontline professionals in MSF’s Adult and Child Protective Services and our partner community agencies, including those that deal with family violence, to guide them in referring clients suspected of having mental health concerns to the Institute of Mental Health or local restructured hospitals for further assessment and treatment.
4. It is important for individuals with suspected or diagnosed mental health issues to seek assessment and treatment early, and for persons around them to encourage them to do so.