Mental health has gained recognition as a critical aspect of employee well-being in recent years. Singapore, in particular, has taken a proactive approach to address this issue through its national mental well-being campaign, "It's OKAY to Reach Out." Launched by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), this campaign aims to normalise conversations about mental health, increase awareness, and encourage Singaporeans to seek support when needed.
The campaign was officially inaugurated during a virtual dialogue session featuring Senior Minister of State (Health) Dr. Janil Puthucheary and subject matter experts. The event attracted over 6,000 viewers and emphasised the importance of mental well-being, the benefits of seeking support, and the government's efforts to enhance mental health in Singapore.
The key findings from the National Population Health Survey 2019 highlight the necessity of such initiatives:
Decline in mental well-being: The survey revealed a decline in the mental well-being of Singaporeans aged 18 to 74. The mean mental well-being score decreased from 7.4 in 2017 to 7.28 in 2019 on a scale of 1 to 9.
Reluctance to seek professional help: Only 1 in 2 Singaporeans expressed willingness to seek help from a professional when unable to cope with stress constantly.
Potential for informal support: While 3 in 4 Singaporeans were open to seeking help from informal support networks, such as friends, relatives, colleagues, or religious leaders, more efforts are needed to encourage individuals to seek help proactively.
Additionally, a 2021 HPB survey found that 52% of Singaporeans associated mental health solely with mental illnesses, while 41% believed that mental well-being was less important than physical health. These perceptions underscore the need to broaden public understanding of mental well-being.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has become even more relevant due to increased uncertainties and changes in daily routines. Social isolation and concerns about health and safety have compounded the challenges individuals face.
Dr. Janil Puthucheary emphasised that mental health is an integral part of overall health, similar to physical health. The campaign also highlights the importance of support networks, encouraging individuals to reach out when they feel overwhelmed or to offer support to others. Building a strong mental health ecosystem in Singapore requires a collaborative effort.
As part of the "It's OKAY to Reach Out" campaign, various engagement initiatives will be rolled out, including community dialogues, radio talk shows, workshops, and educational webinars. These programs aim to equip Singaporeans with the necessary skills, information, and resources to cope with mental health challenges and seek support.
In addition to the campaign, HPB is launched MindSG, an online portal that consolidates national mental health and well-being resources. This portal provides credible information and resources curated by mental health experts, offering convenient access for individuals and their families to manage their mental well-being.
In Malaysia, the prevalence of mental health issues in the workplace is also a growing concern. Increased demands, competition, and globalization have contributed to rising mental health conditions among employees. Despite the significant impact on productivity, Malaysia lacks adequate mental health legislation and insurance coverage in the workplace.
Investing in employee mental health is not only an ethical responsibility but also a strategic business decision. Poor mental health leads to lower productivity and increased absenteeism, resulting in financial losses for organizations. Providing access to therapy and mental health insurance can significantly improve employee well-being and job performance.
Prioritising mental well-being is crucial for employee health and productivity. Initiatives like Singapore's "It's OKAY to Reach Out" campaign and the development of mental health insurance plans in Malaysia are steps in the right direction. Employers should consider adopting similar strategies to create healthier work environments, boost productivity, and contribute to their organization's success.