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Opening Remarks by Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State at the 3rd Global Summit for Mental Health Advocates on 9 October

Type: Official Speeches (All), Official Speeches: Sun Xueling

Topic(s): Social Service Professionals, Social Service Agencies & Partners,  

Mr Seah Kian Peng, Speaker of Parliament and Special Guest at this Global Summit,

Dr Wan Rizal, Member of Parliament for Jalan Besar GRC and Advisor to this Global Summit,

Ms Ellen Lee, President, Silver Ribbon (Singapore),

Ms Tan Li San, CEO, National Council of Social Service,

Mr Tan Kwang Cheak, CEO, Agency for Integrated Care,

Mr Derrick Chang, CEO, PSB Academy,

Dr Tsuyoshi Akiyama, President-Elect, World Federation for Mental Health,

Dr Ingrid Daniels, Immediate Past President, World Federation for Mental Health,

Global Alliance for Mental Health Advocates Advisory Panel Members,

Speakers at this Summit,

Distinguished Guests and Partners of the mental health community

              Good morning! I wish I could have joined all of you in person, but I am nevertheless delighted to be still able to deliver the opening remarks virtually at the 3rd Global Summit for Mental Health Advocates.

2.           The importance of mental well-being has gained greater awareness and attention globally in recent years, showing how mental health is a universal concern that transcends borders. This Summit serves as an invaluable platform for us to exchange ideas and learn best practices around the world to enhance our own strategies and approaches. Singapore, for one, has made more concerted and coordinated efforts to address various mental health related issues at the national level.

3.           Beyond the Label (BTL), the nation-wide movement against stigma towards persons with mental health conditions, which the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) started in 2018, is one good example.  BTL was in response to key findings from the 2016 NCSS Quality of Life study and 2017 NCSS Study on Attitudes towards Persons with Mental Health Conditions in Singapore. The studies found that while persons with mental health conditions identified social inclusion as a key factor to improving quality of life and supporting sustainable recovery, there remained significant challenges in encouraging social inclusion due to existing misperceptions and stigma towards persons with mental health conditions.

4.           It is therefore important that we step up efforts to address such misperceptions, and I am happy to note that a similar NCSS study in 2021 found positive shifts in public attitudes towards persons with mental health conditions. BTL has also grown from strength to strength. NCSS, together with TOUCH Community Services and 29 other partners from the public, private and people sectors, or collectively known as the BTL Collective, aims to harness the power of partnerships to drive ground-up movements to galvanise efforts, particularly in the community, schools and at workplaces.

5.           Since its launch last year, the BTL Collective has hosted 20 community events and empowered 10,000 individuals with more information including ways to support persons with mental health conditions and how they can seek help. The Collective has made much progress on promoting mental health awareness and support among the youth. It has worked closely with 43 schools to extend its outreach to 45,000 students, educating them on mental health conditions and equipping them to better care for their mental wellness as well as care for those around them. 

6.           As we collectively work on providing options for support, such as helplines, counselling services, and other mental health resources more accessible to individuals, it is equally important that we enhance the infrastructure for comprehensive, nation-wide mental health initiatives to benefit the society as a whole. Hence, the Government formed the Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being in July 2021.

7.           The Taskforce recently launched the National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy, aimed at fostering a caring and inclusive society where people are ready to offer help and support one another to achieve good mental health and well-being. To enable us to accomplish this vision, we are looking at several initiatives, focusing on promoting mental health and well-being, improving mental health literacy, and reducing stigma towards people with mental health conditions. 

8.           One such initiative is the Well-Being Circles set up by the SG Mental Well-Being Network. The Well-Being Circles are led by volunteers and aim to raise awareness and train peer supporters in their local communities. By working together, we can truly educate, empower, and engage the community to equip them with knowledge on how to take care of their mental wellness as well as care for those around them.

9.           This whole-of-society approach highlights the significance of community engagement and collaboration, and is befitting of this Summit’s theme. It also highlights the importance of partners’ contribution to our work.

10.         One such strong partner in the mental health space is Silver Ribbon (Singapore), today’s organiser. Over the past 17 years, the team has successfully organised over 1,200 mental health outreach programmes, reaching over 800,000 participants. And of course, this is only possible with the generous and consistent support from public donations, and agencies like the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and NCSS.

11.         I would also like to express my gratitude to each of you for stepping up as mental health advocates and for being our invaluable allies. Your participation will encourage more conversations about mental health and greater family and community support for persons with mental health conditions.

12.         Lastly, my heartiest congratulations to the 36 recipients of the Silver Ribbon Mental Health Awards for their efforts in promoting mental health. The awards ceremony has grown from strength to strength, even adding a new category this year for Community, Culture & Sports. It is important for us to acknowledge all allies out there.

13.         Let us continue to stand together to build a caring and inclusive society by maintaining a strong support ecosystem for persons with mental health conditions. Thank you and I wish everyone a very successful summit.