PDPA and Use of Mental Health Information

Anthea Indira Ong
3 min readMar 5, 2020

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

TAFEP’s recent declaration that stating one’s mental health history on job application forms is discriminatory is welcomed, especially as 48 respondents (12%) from the public consultation conducted by my team and I, cited confidentiality issues as a prohibitive factor against seeking help.

Although we have robust laws governing confidentiality in PDPA, there continues to be worries about access to one’s mental health history within the public healthcare system, especially by employers. A respondent from the consultation shared that within the public service, a colleague’s mental health condition was accessed through the public healthcare system, and was shared as “office gossip” by supervisors.[1]

Additionally, respondents have shared with me their worries on the sharing of their personal information by mental healthcare professionals, including one who was threatened by her school counsellor that her parents will be informed of her same-sex relationship.[2]

There are also instances of unnecessary declarations of mental health information, with a respondent indicating that she was unable to donate blood due to her mental health history[3].

In light of these issues, would the Ministry consider establishing a framework on (i) rightful instances requiring mental health information declaration, (ii) accessibility of patient’s mental health information within the public healthcare system, (iii) better processes for breaking of confidentiality (e.g. professionals to discuss with individuals on which information continues to be kept confidential)?

[1] SG Mental Health Matters Public Consultation — Respondent #280

[2] SG Mental Health Matters Public Consultation — Respondent #204

[3] SG Mental Health Matters Public Consultation — Respondent

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~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