An initiative to bring greater awareness of mental health to neighbourhoods is a welcome step forward in Singapore’s fight against the scourge of mental illness. Efforts made by the Government and other agencies over the years have enhanced public understanding of mental illness as a disease, much like any other physical disease, and not something to be blamed on sufferers, who should certainly not be shunned on account of their condition. Lately, attention has turned to the workplace where the disruptive effects of mental illness were exacerbated by pressures produced by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the neighbourhood is another obvious arena for attention because of the close everyday interaction it produces among citizens.
This is where intervention by the Beyond the Label (BTL) Collective should prove helpful. The BTL Collective is a grouping of organisations that seeks to educate and equip the public to support those living with mental health conditions, and to destigmatise them. While the collective focused on promoting mental health awareness and support among young people in the past year, it is starting to hold talks and workshops in the neighbourhood so that more residents can gain knowledge and basic skills with which to identify people with mental health conditions. Pilots are being rolled out in Punggol West and Bukit Batok East. Such community support would empower the affected to overcome challenges in seeking and receiving the help that they need.