SHORTAGE OF MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
The longer it takes for someone to receive help, the more difficult their recovery can be. Delays in treatment time can cause other serious consequences too, such as limiting social and occupational opportunities, and increasing the risk of depression and substance use challenges.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), the median waiting time in 2020 for a new subsidised appointment at public hospitals to see a psychiatrist was 34 days and that with a psychologist was 32 days.
However, I also know of family and friends who were, and are still, given a few months of waiting time for their first or next appointment.
The high costs of mental healthcare and long waiting times at public hospitals are likely a low supply-high demand consequence given that Singapore has only 4.6 psychiatrists and 9.7 psychologists per 100,000 population, as reported by the Ministry of Health in 2022. Compare this to 44 psychiatrists per 100,000 population for Switzerland and 28 for New Zealand versus 1.0 for Malaysia and 0.3 for Indonesia.
In the community, there were 491 registered counsellors and clinical supervisors with the Singapore Association for Counselling as of February 2022, which translates to 8.6 counsellors per 100,000 population but some of these counsellors might have already been included in the ratio of psychologists.
This shortage of mental health professionals has been made more acute as demand for help increases with improved awareness from national campaigns such as Beyond the Label and the toll from the COVID-19 pandemic.
We would be remiss to measure how well we are doing in raising awareness in mental health without also monitoring how we are faring in affordability and accessibility to quality care and treatment.