Talks about COVID-19 never seem to end. Recent news and talks about military conflicts, increased political tensions are sending ripples around the world contributing even further to the already volatile economic markets and high inflation rates.
Has COVID and post-pandemic affected Singaporeans and their mental health? Let’s find out.
Mental health stats in Singapore
Globally, mental health has declined since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In Singapore, 76% of those surveyed reported feeling sad or depressed and 65% reported feeling lonely. More than half of those surveyed felt that COVID-19 has somewhat or definitely changed their lives for the worse.
Based on an Institute of Mental Health (IMH) study conducted during the pandemic, about 50% of over 1000 participants identified risk of family members of friends getting infected by COVID-19, financial loss (such as losing work opportunities or having to take unpaid leave) and unemployment as the top sources of stress.
Pre-pandemic, a 2018 nationwide survey showed that one in seven Singaporeans have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime. Major depression (1 in 16 people), alcohol abuse (1 in 24) and OCD (1 in 28) are the top three mental conditions people have.
A MOH COVID-19 mental wellness report stated that 80% of Singaporeans prefer to manage issues by themselves and not seek professional help for mental health issues related to the pandemic and 50% prefer to seek help from friends and family.
To add to this, Singapore also has the lowest prevalence of psychiatrists among wealthy nations with about 2.8 psychiatrists for every 100,000 Singaporeans, compared to 13.5 per 100,000 in Australia.
The good news is that 85% of Singaporeans believe professional help will provide them a better outcome. Another piece of good news is that Singaporeans are more aware of their mental health challenges and are seeking treatment earlier.
Youth (18-35) are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues in Singapore
The Institute of Mental Health has commissioned a multi-year study in September 2022 which will examine the state of mental health in youth.
Youth are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues as Singaporeans develop their mental disorders during their teenage and early adulthood years.
According to an assistant chairman at the IMH, Dr. Dr Mythily Subramaniam, “Young people aged 18 – 34 years also had the highest proportion of mental disorders, and were more vulnerable to developing mood and anxiety disorders.”
Some factors that could potentially affect younger Singaporeans more prominently incllude:
The MEN in MENtal Health
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.
Across different cultures, men are expected to provide financially for their family, which often means pursuing a stable career. In recent years, parental responsibilities are increasingly shared with fathers as more women join the workforce. Men are often stretched between their families and career – each expecting them to be fully present.
Unhealthy expectations and stigmas
According to the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), there remains a perception among men that “help-seeking is associated with loss of status, damage of identity, dependence, incompetence and loss of control and autonomy.”
This Asian notion of masculinity where men are discouraged from exhibiting physical or mental weakness brings about significant stress from self-perceived inadequacies in living up to the ideals of a man.
As a result, men learn to restrict their expression of emotions and suffer in silence.
A silent crisis
Without a healthy avenue to de-stress, men are more likely to engage in activities such as drinking, smoking and gambling.
Statistics show that Singaporean men are six times more likely to smoke than Singaporean women. Anger issues and isolating oneself are a common manifestation when there is no healthy outlet for men to deal with their stress.
Choosing to suffer in silence can be deadly. A 2013 study by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester showed that suppressing one’s emotions can increase chances of premature death from all causes by more than 30%.
In 2021, the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) reported that men made up about 70% of all suicides. One contributing factor highlighted is that men are less likely to ask for professional help than women.
Understanding mental health and physical health
Mental health, like physical health, is about wellness rather than illness.
Our physical and mental health are inherently connected, we need to invest in both our body and mind in order to care for ourselves holistically. The stress from physical health issues can affect one’s mental health detrimentally, while poor mental health can also manifest as physical health issues.
Without awareness of this link between mental and physical health, many may seek treatment without realizing the root cause, leading to an unnecessarily prolonged suffering.
Here are three examples of physical health issues that affect men which have a strong connection to mental health. SIRE treats these three health conditions both from a physical and psychological perspective.
In Singapore, sexual health problems are more common than you might think. You might be surprised to hear that about 51.3% of respondents to a survey done among Singaporean men (aged 30 and older) reported some degree of erectile dysfunction (ED).
Psychological factors play a big role in the development of sexual health problems. In men, the erection process is a seductive play between biological and psychological factors. It has been reported that about 40% of erectile dysfunction cases are considered psychogenic.
Depression, stress and relationship issues are some of the common causes of psychogenic ED. Hence, it is no surprise that treatment with medications needs to be supplemented with psychological assistance. Studies have shown that effective results are more commonly seen when medications are combined with psychological therapy.
From simple concerns about sexual performance to just wanting to talk about basic relationship issues, or just to find out if you have a problem – SIRE is a MOH-licensed specialised men’s health clinic that offers discreet online consultations at your comfort and privacy.
One issue that many men face but isn’t often discussed is body dysmorphia. We tend to think that only women struggle with physical appearance because of societal standards, but men can be dissatisfied with their bodies as well because of how men are portrayed in the media.
While this is not very much reported in Singapore, studies in the United States have shown a significantly large proportion of men experience some form of body dissatisfaction.
Being short, underweight or overweight or having hair loss affects men’s perceptions of themselves, and consequently, their mental health.
Here at SIRE, we are here to figure out your hair loss problem, together.
It is reported that nearly 6 out of every 10 Singaporeans are not sleeping well because of COVID-19. If you are experiencing sleep problems, you are definitely not alone.
Sleep is essential to every process in the body. It boosts our immunity and brings us physical and mental wellness. From boardroom meetings to bedroom performance, a good night of rest brings out the best man in us.
Whether it is the stressors of life that keeps you up at night, or something more, here at SIRE, we’ve got you covered.
SIRE, Men – Let’s break the silence together
Ultimately, mental health is about being cognitively, emotionally and socially healthy – the way we think, feel and develop relationships – it is not merely the absence of a mental health condition or mental illness.
Here at SIRE, we want to change society’s unhealthy expectations of masculinity to one that is healthy and empowering for men. Perhaps it could be a physical health problem that you have been brooding about that has affected your mental wellness, do not struggle silently or on your own.
Q: Has mental health worsened among Singaporeans in recent years?
The statistics suggest that there has been a growing awareness of mental health issues in Singapore, and more individuals are seeking help and support for their mental well-being.
Q: What do the statistics reveal about the prevalence of mental health issues in Singapore?
Statistics indicate that mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, are prevalent in Singapore. A significant number of individuals have reported experiencing symptoms related to mental health concerns.
Q: Are there specific age groups or demographics that are more affected by worsening mental health?
While mental health concerns can affect people of all ages, statistics suggest that younger individuals, including adolescents and young adults (18-35), may be particularly vulnerable to mental health challenges.
Q: What are some factors contributing to the worsening of mental health among Singaporeans?
Factors such as academic pressure, work-related stress, social isolation, and the fast-paced modern lifestyle can contribute to the worsening of mental health among Singaporeans.
Q: Have more Singaporeans been seeking professional help for mental health concerns?
Yes, there has been a positive shift in attitudes towards seeking professional help for mental health concerns. More Singaporeans are recognizing the importance of seeking support from mental health professionals.
Q: Can early intervention and awareness campaigns make a difference in improving mental health outcomes?
Yes, early intervention and awareness campaigns play a crucial role in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and encouraging individuals to seek help early, which can lead to better outcomes.