Singapore DPM Wong says mental health a national priority, promises 28,000 more frontline workers

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament yesterday that the country made mental health and wellbeing “a key priority”, and that “we have lots to do” to “build a Singapore where everyone matters, where everyone has a place, and everyone belongs”.

Lawrence Wong
Singapore DPM Lawrence Wong speaks on mental health and wellbeing in Parliament on February 7. Screenshot courtesy: YouTube/CNA

Wong said this after informing the house that the Inter-agency Taskforce on Mental Health and Wellbeing, formerly the COVID-19 Mental Wellness Taskforce, had released a National Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

The most important aspect of the new strategy is ramping up the Singapore government’s capacity for offering mental health and wellbeing support to the community.

DPM Wong informed Parliament that polyclinics in Singapore would offer mental health services; 900 more general practitioner (GP) clinics would have these services; and an additional 28,000 frontline personnel and volunteers would help the authorities identify people with mental health troubles.

Singapore national mental health strategy infographic

“Our plans are not static; we will continue to evolve and update them,” said the DPM. “Let there be no doubt — the government is making mental health and wellbeing a key priority in our national agenda.”

Wong’s statements came in response to concerns raised by several MPs on mental health services in Singapore. They had pointed out the difficulties in getting appointments and also inadequate mental health awareness among the public.

The DPM said that improving mental health required the understanding of a “full range of issue” — one end of the spectrum had “debilitating” conditions, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia; the other end of the spectrum had “issues affecting mental wellbeing”, such as anxiety and stress.

Given this range of problems, “a broad suite of solutions” was needed, he stated. What was required went beyond increasing capacity at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), though that would be done, said the DPM. Schools, workplaces, and the community would get more help, too.

Something has changed around the world since the early 2010s

The Singapore MPs who had raised the concerns had specifically alluded to the mental health support needed by the elderly and the youth.

During his Parliament speech, Wong said, “In our [new] strategy, we are redoubling our efforts to better understand the issues that young people face.”

While it was never easy to be a teenager, “something has changed around the world, since around the early 2010s”, said Wong. “The current generation of young people [is] expressing more concerns about their mental health than the previous cohorts.”

Cases of depression and suicidal ideation were on the rise in many countries, including the United States and the Nordic nations. “We see a similar trend in Singapore,” said the DPM.

However, he added, mental health problems in Singapore were “not at the same high levels” as in some other countries, where this issue was “conflated” with “other difficult issues”, such as drugs, homelessness, and street violence.

Wong said that the authorities in Singapore were “linking up with researchers from around the world” to understand the root cause of this surge in youth mental health issues.

Talking about the impact of “heavy social media usage” on youngsters’ lives, DPM Wong referred to the problems arising from “the constant pressure to present a positive image online; the fear of missing out; algorithms that flood news feeds with stories that are designed to spark outrage; [and] the issues of cyber-bullying”.

He also pointed out that too much time spent on social media meant too little sleep, lack of exercise, and less real-life interactions.

Some researchers felt, he said, that “we also need to loosen up in the real world and give our children more space for free play and autonomy”. Absence of those things could affect their confidence and ability to take charge of their own lives.

Targets for 2030 set by the Singapore government

The Parliament speech by DPM Wong outlined the following targets to be achieved by 2030 or earlier:

  • Increased capacity at IMH and the redeveloped Alexandra Hospital for those that need specialist care
  • Increased capacity for long-term support to provide stepdown care for those who need it
  • Increase in public sector psychiatrists and psychologists by 30 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively
  • Introduction of mental health services at all polyclinics and at 900 more GP clinics
  • Training and equipping 28,000 additional frontline personnel and volunteers to serve across the community and social service touchpoints
  • Redoubling of efforts to achieve existing targets, such as the Ministry of Education target of deploying more than 1,000 teacher-counsellors across schools, in addition to the basic counselling skills imparted to teachers

Helplines on mental wellbeing and counselling

Mental wellbeing

  • Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928
  • Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788
  • Chat, Centre of Excellence for Youth Mental Health: 6493-6500/1
  • Women’s Helpline: 1800-777-5555 (weekdays, 10am to 6pm)


  • TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252
  • TOUCH Care Line (for caregivers): 6804-6555
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre: 6353-1180
  • Counselling and Care Centre: 6536-6366

Online resources

  • (for those aged 13 to 25)
  • (for those aged 12 to 25)

Helpline information source: The Straits Times