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26 Oct 2018

25th Oct 2018

Adjunct Associate Professor Angie Chew, Executive Director and Principal Mindfulness Trainer, Brahm Centre,

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

AIC Board Members,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

1.     A very good evening to all of you. This year, to commemorate Mental Health Awareness Day, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), Institute of Mental Health (IMH), National Council of Social Service, and MINDSET Care Limited, together with more than 29 community partners from mental health care, social care, community care and corporate sectors have come together to co-organise the Mental Health Awareness Singapore Learning Series 2018. The aim is to generate greater public awareness of mental health issues and to dispel myths and misperceptions.

2.    Through today’s seminar, we hope to inspire all of you to initiate conversations on mental health at the workplace.

 

Working Adults and Their Challenges

3.    In a survey conducted by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), one in six working adults in Singapore experiences a relatively high level of stress.[1] While stress is part of our fast-paced urban lifestyle, we can take measures to better manage it. We can create a kinder and supportive environment at the workplace by being more understanding and lending a listening ear to our co-workers who may be going through a challenging period. Having family-friendly policies can help staff to strike work-life balance and contribute to reducing workplace stress. Healthier, happier employees make for a more productive and motivated workforce.

 

Practising Self-care

4.    Some of you may identify with being the ‘sandwiched’ generation, where you take on the responsibility of caring for both your children and elderly parents. Between our busy work schedules and caring for our loved ones, we may sacrifice rest and neglect our own mental health. It is important to practise good self-care, and recognise whether we have symptoms of common mental health issues such as burnout, depression and anxiety. If present, it is crucial to seek help early, talk to a trusted friend, find ways to cope and build up our mental resilience.

5.    Let me share with you a real life story of someone whom we can easily identify with. Christina is a part-time lecturer in a polytechnic. Like most working mothers, she has to meet demands both at work and at home. When her two sons entered their teenage years, she struggled with the change in their temperament, which caused a strain on their relationship. This caused her great stress and anxiety over the last few years, which affected her health and her relationship with her other family members.

6.    
Through a friend’s recommendation, she attended the Mindfulness Foundation Course conducted by Brahm Centre. She learnt to recognise her stress triggers and the way her body responds to her thoughts. The coping skills she learnt helped Christina to manage her emotions, which in turn reduced her stress and anxiety tremendously. Her overall well-being and relationship with her sons improved.

7.    Simple habits such as practising mindfulness, exercising regularly and having a good night’s rest can build up our mental health resilience. Learning a new skill such as baking, gardening, playing a musical instrument or sports can also help us relax, improve our well-being and boost our self-esteem.

 

Support Networks and Resources Available in the Community to Help Caregivers

8.    Beyond self-care, many of you who are caregivers also need to develop a support network within your family, friends, colleagues as well as in the community. This is especially important if you are looking after seniors who may have conditions like dementia. According to the findings of the Well-being of the Singapore Elderly (WiSE) study conducted by IMH in 2013, one in 10 seniors aged 60 years and above has dementia[2], and the number is expected to increase with an ageing population.

9.    We have established Dementia-Friendly Communities (DFC), which are support networks that help seniors with dementia live and age well, as well as provide much needed support to caregivers. This is part of our nation-wide effort to prepare for the future needs of our ageing population. Under the DFC initiative, residents, grassroots leaders, business owners and frontline government agencies are trained to help persons with dementia and their families. We are also working with banks, pharmacies, museums, libraries and transport providers to empower and enable them to meet the needs of their customers with dementia and employees who may be caregivers themselves.

10.    Our younger generation is also roped in to be part of this community. Intergenerational programmes for youth volunteers create awareness about ageing and dementia. Students from primary schools to tertiary institutions learn about the ageing process and learn to interact with seniors through activities and outings.

11.    To date, six DFCs have been formed. They are at Yishun, Hong Kah North, Macpherson, Queenstown, Fengshan and Bedok. Community Care services, pharmacies, community clubs and resident committee offices have also pledged their support to avail their premises as Go-To Points, which serve as community resource centres on dementia. Anyone who encounters seniors who are disoriented and alone, can bring them to seek help at Go-To Points. There are currently more than 200 Go-To Points across Singapore.

12.    Beyond building DFCs, there are other initiatives and resources to support caregivers and persons with dementia so that they can continue to live well in the community. We have been building the capability and capacity of community hospitals and nursing homes to provide care for persons with dementia. We are expanding the number of eldercare centres providing day care services to persons with dementia to support more seniors in the community.

13.    We have also worked with community partners to build a network of Community Outreach Teams to reach out to those at risk of or who have mental health issues. These teams conduct outreach activities, and provide basic emotional support and service linkage. Brahm Centre is one of the 33 Community Outreach Teams that has been conducting mental health awareness talks, including mindfulness sessions.

 

Launch of Dementia Friends Mobile Application

14.    The Ministry of Health is in the midst of engaging caregivers, service providers and stakeholders to co-create solutions which can better support caregivers. The new Dementia Friends mobile application, that I am pleased to officially launch today, is an example of how we can mobilise community resources to respond to caregivers’ needs. This mobile app, which is co-developed by AIC, students and staff from Nanyang Polytechnic and Integrated Health Information Systems, is part of the Dementia-Friendly Singapore initiative. The app allows users to easily access information about dementia, receive updates on upcoming events on caregiving, and most importantly, use it to search for loved ones who have lost their way home. Go-to Points are also listed on the app so that the public can locate one that is nearest to them.

15.    With this app, it is easier for everyone to play a part to make our neighbourhood a caring and inclusive dementia-friendly community. Since its soft launch, more than 1,500 mobile users have downloaded the app and signed up as Dementia Friends. Caregivers can activate this network of Dementia Friends in times of a crisis, as the community of Dementia Friends can help to keep a look out for missing loved ones once they get a notification from the app. I encourage all of you to download this app and sign up as a Dementia Friend, and share this useful resource with relatives and friends.

16.    One of the caregivers who has downloaded the mobile app is Ms Janet Koh, who is here with us today. She is a full-time caregiver to her 84-year-old mother, who had a stroke and was also diagnosed with dementia four years ago. The mobile app is a useful resource for Janet as she can refer to information on caregiving and self-care, and be updated of upcoming events and activities.

 

Closing

17.    In closing, I would like to thank Brahm Centre for taking the lead to organise this event with the strong support from the other partners – AIC, the Singapore Association for Mental Health, Filos Community Services and MINDSET Care Limited – to raise greater awareness of these issues. Whether you are facing high stress at work, caregiver burnout or if you know of a friend who may need assistance, you can be assured that help and support are available through this network of mental health providers.

18.    
Have an enriching and enjoyable evening. Thank you.



[1] Source: Health Promotion Board launches integrated workplace mental health solution and centre of excellence for healthy mind to improve mental well-being of working Singaporeans – https://www.hpb.gov.sg/article/health-promotion-board-launches-integrated-workplace-mental-health-solution-and-centre-of-excellence-for-healthy-mind-to-improve-mental-well-being-of-working-singaporeans

[2] Prevalence of dementia in Singapore

Source: Well-being of Singapore Elderly (WiSE) Study - https://www.imh.com.sg/uploadedFiles/Newsroom/News_Releases/23Mar15_WiSE%20Study%20Results.pdf)




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