Ms Hany Soh: To ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth what is the level of support provided to Singapore athletes in terms of mental and emotional wellness that will assist them in their preparation and recovery before and after major sports competitions.
Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law:
- The Government is committed to supporting our Team Singapore athletes throughout their sporting journey. Athlete Life Management is an area of focus for the Singapore Sport Institute (SSI) and the National Youth Sports Institute (NYSI). It concerns itself with integrating sports performance with key aspects of an athlete’s life and total well-being, including mental well-being.
- Preparation for major games must cater to the all-round needs of an athlete – going beyond physical readiness to mental readiness. On the latter, ahead of major competitions, SSI and NYSI assign Sport Psychologists and Athlete Life personnel to provide psychological and mental well-being support for our national athletes, which may include one-on-one consultations, and imparting skills to athletes to manage their mental and emotional conditions.
- These strategies will be tailored to the competition conditions. For the recently concluded Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, due to the COVID-19 movement restrictions, SSI Psychologists produced a travel essentials kit for athletes to track and monitor their mood, document their reflections, and engage them in positive thinking.
- After the Olympic Games, the Sport Psychologists conducted individual post-competition debriefs for the athletes. These sessions typically help the athletes to process their emotional responses to the performance outcomes, facilitate check-ins on their mental health and well-being, and encourage the athletes to plan ahead for their next milestones – be it the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games or Paris 2024 Olympic Games. As the Tokyo Olympics also marked the last major outing for some of our athletes, such sessions also discussed transition plans to prepare them for their post-competition career.
- SSI and NYSI are keenly aware that attention to the mental health of our athletes must be paid throughout their sporting journey, and not just during competition seasons. To this end, in 2018, SSI introduced a mental health literacy programme which equips coaches and relevant personnel like sports administrators to help identify and support athletes who are experiencing issues with their mental wellbeing. NYSI has also added a Continuing Coach Education (CCE) module on the Youth Coaching Online platform to educate coaches in this aspect.
- Sport Singapore also proactively checks on our athletes’ mental health. A well-being survey was added to the spexMedical check-up in 2020 to screen for possible psychological and mental distress, including eating and sleeping disorders. Potential cases are then flagged and assessed by SSI’s sport science team. If clinical expertise is required, they will be referred to the Singapore Sport and Exercise Medicine Centre (SSMC@SSI) for further follow-up with a trained psychiatrist or clinical psychologist.
- Finally, SSI and NYSI also partner the respective National Sport Associations (NSAs) to build the mental resilience of our athletes by equipping them with coping mechanisms and adjustment capabilities so that they can self-regulate, recognise symptoms of weak mental health, and practise self-care.
- One boost to emotional well-being for our Team Singapore athletes, is knowing that they have the support of Singaporeans when they have put in their best – and that it is not conditional on only winning medals. For the recent Tokyo Olympics, our athletes received many handmade encouragement cards from well-wishers. The steadfast support of fellow Singaporeans through the ups and downs provide an effective boost to mental and emotional wellness. I hope that our Honourable Member, along with other Singaporeans, will continue to cheer our athletes on and express support for them. It is a great boost to their well-being, and spurs them on to continue to do their best for the nation.