Parliamentary Question: 7 May 2019

Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (a) of the 8,000 youths who took part in the youth conversations in 2018, what is the number and percentage of youths who indicated mental wellbeing as a top concern; (b) what plans does the Ministry have to address the issue of youth mental health; and © how will these plans align with the Ministry’s Community Mental Health Masterplan and programmes being undertaken by other agencies.

The Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien): Mr Speaker, 3,600 youths responded to the online poll of Youth Conversations. The topic of mental health received over 2,100 votes, making it 9th among top topics of interest, ranging from social inequality to marriage and parenthood. A face-to-face Youth Conversation was subsequently organised in partnership with the Health Promotion Board (HPB), bringing students, volunteers, and mental health professionals together to discuss what more we can do as a society.

Following the session, youths’ insights and ideas were shared with various government agencies, including HPB, Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), and National Council for Social Services (NCSS). Youths themselves also stepped up to take action. For example, some of the participants formed a panel of resource persons for HPB to provide feedback on their programmes and share insights about mental health issues among youths. In addition, two participants came together to start a project, called The SOAR Initiative (School of Ability and Recovery), to foster mental wellness and reduce stigma through education.

Youth Corps Singapore (YCS) recently started a mental health cluster which will facilitate youth leaders in galvanising like-minded volunteers to do more in this area. Through the National Youth Fund and Young Changemakers Grant, we funded projects led by youths and Youth Sector Organisations, such as the Singapore Mental Health Film Festival by Breathe Movement, held in February this year, which aimed to increase awareness about the complexity of mental illnesses through a series of films and panel discussions.

Through these efforts, we complement MOH’s wider initiatives to improve mental well-being, as part of the recommendations under the NurtureSG Action Plan and Community Mental Health Masterplan. These initiatives include strengthening peer support efforts within schools and Institutes of Higher Learning, equipping them with peer-helping skills, strategies, and resources to look out for peers in distress.

Ms Anthea Ong (Nominated Member): I thank the Minister for the clarification. I have some additional questions. Can I please ask what happens when the youth cross over to young working adults? Is the Ministry also engaging with workplaces to continue to support them? The other question is what metrics will be used for measuring the impact of the efforts that the Minister just shared with the House?

Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien: The initiatives under NYC and Youth Corps are not limited to students, so actually they reached out to a broad spectrum of youth including young working adults. The impact of each of these initiatives will be measured against the KPI of the project, depending on the objective set out in the project proposal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~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 volunteerism 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).