Double Stigma of Mental Health & LGBTQ+

Budget 2020, Committee of Supply Debates, Ministry of Health, 5 March 2020

WHO suggests that the LGBTQ+ community should be considered as a “vulnerable group”1 in mental healthcare, with the “double stigma” of homophobia and seeking help for mental health issues. In a recent public consultation on mental health that my team and I conducted, 13 responses referenced such a “double stigma”. One lamented that (I quote) “it doesn’t help too with social stigma against mental health and LGBTQ+ that push more away from the care they need, like me.” [1]

For the LGBTQ+ community, specific issues include discrimination by mental healthcare professionals, as well as disclosing one’s sexual and gender identities to family without consent. Given the Government’s commitment to mental healthcare in community settings, we now have social workers and counsellors who support mental health, in addition to mental healthcare professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists. Would the Ministry consider adopting a Whole-of-Government approach in ensuring that personnel working in mental healthcare, including those within community settings, are trained and competent in LGBTQ-related issues?

Diversity officers supporting minorities is a common practice in the business sector.4 Would the Ministry consider appointing diversity officers, sited within respective agencies, across the healthcare and social services sectors? They can serve as a resource for professionals to tap on to better understand LGBTQ-related issues, help to develop competencies in serving LGBTQ individuals, and ensure dissemination of LGBTQ-specific resources.

[1] SG Mental Health Matters Public Consultation — Respondent #40

[2] Research submissions by Oogachaga, Sayoni and Inter-University LGBTQ+ Network indicate issues of confidentiality surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals by professionals including psychiatrists, psychologists and school counsellors.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

Follow Anthea Ong on her public page at www.facebook.com/antheaonglaytheng

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.

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