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Volunteers advocating mental wellness in the community

Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at Silver Ribbon’s 15th Volunteer Appreciation Day

Ms Ellen Lee, President, Silver Ribbon (Singapore),

Board members,

Distinguished guests,

 

  1. Good morning. I am honoured to join you for the Silver Ribbon Volunteer Appreciation Day.
  2. Today we have come together to recognise our Silver Ribbon volunteers. Your selfless contributions have furthered the mental health cause in Singapore and we want to thank you for all you have done.
  3. The Silver Ribbon (Singapore) [SRS] was launched by our late President Mr S R Nathan in 2006, to raise awareness of mental health issues, combat mental health stigma, and encourage early intervention.
  4. It started out as a small outfit with only one staff, at a time when awareness of mental wellness was still in its infancy. But 15 years on, SRS is now managed by a tight team of seven passionate staff, supported by over 600 volunteers and over 700 Youth Chapter members, helping to further the mental health cause in Singapore.  

    Mental health landscape in Singapore during COVID-19

  5. The past year and a half has amplified how crucial mental well-being is to our overall health. A study[1] in April this year, revealed that 9 in 10 Singaporeans have said that their mental health has declined in the last year. And these stressors are felt by people from all walks of life, and across age groups.
  6. Hence, uplifting the mental wellness of our community is of paramount importance now more than ever, as we learn to live with COVID-19 and continue building an inclusive and empathetic society.

    Silver Ribbon Contributions to the Mental Health Space

  7. The SRS and all volunteers have contributed much in the mental health space.
  8. Your outreach to the public through talks, seminars and conferences, and partnerships with numerous organisations including schools, have raised the awareness of mental issues and their warning signs. Through the pandemic, you continued your engagement efforts, moving events and mental wellness workshops online – so that SRS could continue to reach out to more on mental health awareness.
  9. In the past 15 years, over 860,000 individuals have benefitted from your programmes and services, and I believe more will learn to cope with mental health issues with your help.
  10. In recognition of your contributions, last year SRS received the President’s Volunteerism & Philanthropy Awards 2020 – Special Edition. My heartiest congratulations on this honour!

    Recognition of board members and volunteers


  11. Today, nine board members and six volunteers - will be receiving the Silver Ribbon Long Service Award. Allow me to share some of their stories, which I am sure will be an inspiration to us.
  12. Board Member Ms Ellen Lee would be no stranger to most of you. She has been a keen advocate on mental health issues, even before joining SRS. When serving as a Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC, she supported mental health school projects and looked out for any early warning signs among her residents and grassroots leaders.
  13. She continues to make a difference in the community when she took on the President of SRS in 2015. Under her leadership, SRS has expanded its local programmes as well as organised international events such as the 2018 Global Summit for Mental Health, where local and international health experts exchanged ideas and best practices.
  14. Mr Mohamed Zailani Mohamed Said, first learned about SRS after attending several SRS events while serving as a grassroots leader at Geylang Serai. He began volunteering in 2016 and has been the voice of many SRS events, playing the role of an emcee at mental health events. As Chairman for Geylang Serai Community Club Malay Activity Executive Committee (MAEC) and Vice Chair for M³@Geylang Serai, (M3 is pronounced as “M cube”) he also organizes regular mental health events at his community club, addressing the mental needs of residents.
  15. Proving that age is no barrier to volunteerism, Mrs Koh Sian Chow and Mdm Kong Ching Mei, who are both over 70 years young, have been volunteering with SRS. Their sharing of their rich personal experiences at SRS talks have helped attendees appreciate the importance of mental health, and the need to look out for the mental wellness of loved ones.
  16. Mdm Kong has continued to volunteer with SRS despite facing challenging family circumstances. Thank you to you and all volunteers for extending care to help others in need.

    Whole-of-Society Effort to Address Mental Well-being

  17. A whole-of-society effort is needed to address the issue of mental well-being, and the Government is committed to working with partners to support this cause.
  18. The Inter-agency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being is bringing together different stakeholders to develop an overarching national strategy and action plan on mental health and well-being. As a Taskforce member, MCCY will work with stakeholders and agencies such as MOE, MOH and MSF to strengthen efforts in the mental health space.

    Conclusion

  19. We need to regularly take stock of, not only our own mental well-being, but also care about the mental state of those around us. SRS’ work over the past 15 years has done much to grow awareness of mental wellness within our community. Thank you for your efforts and I look forward to many more years ahead for SRS. 
  20. Let us continue to encourage and support one another. Together, we can build a caring, cohesive, and compassionate society.
  21. I wish everyone an enjoyable time and a good weekend ahead.
  22. Thank you.

[1] The latest AIA health Matters Survey 2021 polled over 300 Singaporeans aged 30-55 across a spectrum of working adults that is representative of the resident population and found out that fears over income loss and job instability caused 91% of respondents to report declines in their mental health.

The path to pandemic recovery is still causing anxiety, and Singaporeans are bogged down by fear of tackling both mental health challenges and critical illness. Not only are Singaporeans concerned about their own health, they are also feeling anxious about their family’s and loved ones’ overall wellbeing, which further adds to the stress they have been dealing with in the past year.

Last updated on 22 November 2021