Singapore is home to a new youth focussed mental health organisation, Changing Minds Limited (Changing Minds), approaching a serious issue from a novel perspective.
Officially launched in April, Changing Minds tackles the issue of youth mental health and wellbeing from an Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) perspective, an established approach new to Singapore and the Singaporean mental health sector.
Changing Minds targets the community at large, bringing together consulting services, cutting edge training programs and community partnerships to support individual grassroots “operatives”, informal collectives, social enterprise and the formal youth sector to develop, design and deliver clinically informed prevention and early intervention initiatives and ventures. Complementing the usual delivery of clinical or professional youth support services.
“Our constituents can be anyone; from an individual with an interest in making a difference in their community but not knowing how to start, to issue specific organisations that work with youth, or businesses that employ young people but don’t fully understand or know how to support them in mental health and wellbeing related matters, and everything in between. It involves connecting people and collaboration from across the community and it sectors” Andrew Rigg.
Evidence from around the world shows this approach works. In fact, community driven prevention and early intervention approaches have been essential components of all major global population health campaigns for many years and are a recognised, though not yet widely applied, essential part of the battle to address and support young people experiencing mental health issues.
“When thinking about mental health, as well as the immediate effects, we also need to think about the long-term ones. We know that in many cases, when a young person starts experiencing symptoms, three quarters of them don’t seek help. We also know the longer a person waits to seek support, the greater the likelihood their condition will get worse. This gap between first experiencing symptoms and first seeking help, is known as the “treatment gap”. And in Singapore this gap, for young people, is between 4 and 11 years. Now that’s a long time and by the time they seek help, receive support or a diagnosis and begin treatment, they are well into adulthood and their condition is probably negatively affecting their lives – their quality of life, relationships with friends and family, their ability to study, and work. It’s our aim to play a part in reducing that treatment gap, ensuring young people are able to seek help earlier, that they have a better understanding of their own mental health and they know when, where and how to seek help. When this happens, everyone benefits – the young person, society and even the economy.” Andrew Rigg
In 2019 it was reported that mental health related issues impacted the Singapore economy by more than $3billion dollars and this amount is increasing annually. By 2030, mental health is forecast to cost the global economy more than US$30trillion annually.
Changing Minds delivers services through partnerships with local organisers and operatives, service organisations, the clinical mental health sector and international partners and is underpinned by principles of Asset Based Community Development. ABCD is characterised by ‘ground up’ rather than ‘top down’ approaches – focussing on unlocking the potential that already exists in the community to innovate and find solutions to the issues they face for themselves.
“ABCD informs us the answer to most community issues can be found in the community itself; that enormous potential for action and change exists in the community but often needs help to be realised. Cross community cooperation and collaboration has an essential role to play in unlocking that potential, and that’s where Changing Minds comes in. We are experienced ABCD practitioners and service designers with almost 20 years of experience in the field. Our role is to help coordinate the process, providing the keys, so to speak, through listening to the different voices in the community, especially the voices of young people and delivering contextualised consultation services, fostering collaboration, providing accessible access to the latest cutting-edge training and catalysing the development of new, innovative solutions from within the community and through our community partnerships. Ultimately creating an environment where our young people are supported at every turn and mental health in general, is normalised, humanised.” Andrew Rigg
KEY YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH POINTS
- Around 1 in 4 young people in Singapore are experiencing mental health issues with 18-to-34-year old’s most affected.
- According to Samaritans of Singapore, suicide is the leading cause of death in young people aged between 10 and 29 years.
- According to anecdotal research, deaths by suicide are also under-reported.
- According to a report on CNA in late 2020, three quarters of young people experiencing mental health symptoms do not seek help.
- The median time taken between a young person first experiencing symptoms and first seeking help is between 4 and 11 years – even at the lower end of the spectrum, by this time the likelihood of mental health affecting quality of life, relationships, work and study is significantly increased.
- According to the International Journal of Mental Health, clinically informed, multidisciplinary prevention and early intervention approaches have the greatest impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.
- Youth Mental Health is a recognised global issue, Singapore’s data is equivalent to the global data.
- The Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development reports that by 2030, mental health will cost the global economy US$30 trillion.