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Speech by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister of State for Finance and Transport at the Great Via Ferrata Wall Challenge 2011

04 Sep 2011

Dr Lim Cheng Hwa, President of Silver Ribbon (Singapore) and team

Management team of Orchard Central

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. A very good morning to you. It is my pleasure to join you at the Great Via Ferrata Wall Challenge 2011 in commemoration of World Mental Health Day.

2. Mental health forms a crucial pillar of the well-being and effective functioning of an individual and by extension, the community. It is described by the World Health Organization as "...a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community".

3. In Singapore, the National Mental Health Survey conducted in 2004 found that 1 in 20 adults will suffer from depression and 1 in 25 adults will suffer from anxiety disorders in their lifetime. However, the same survey also showed that only around half of those with these two most common mental disorders in Singapore will seek some form of help. The others are probably not aware, do not know where to get help, or are unwilling to get help.

4. The stigma that surrounds mental illness is one key reason which prevents people from seeking treatment. The consequences of untreated mental illness can be shattering, leading to disability, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and even suicide. Discrimination and misconceptions remain among the most significant barriers for people with mental illness participating actively in the community.

5. I recall years ago, as a young manager, dealing with a staff who suffered from depression. I was inexperienced then and not able to help. The experience prompted me to pay more attention to information about mental health. Some years later, I was again required to deal with a staff who was suffering from depression. This time round, I was better prepared. With the help of other colleagues, we worked out alternative arrangements to support the staff through a very difficult period in her life. The whole episode lasted nearly two years, and there were times when the staff wanted to give up, and to quit her job. But, with encouragement from her boss, colleagues and human resource, she persevered and learnt to manage her condition. Today, she remains a productive and strong performer, and an asset to the organisation. This episode affirmed my belief that we can all do our part to help someone with a mental health condition.

6. The Health Promotion Board (HPB), in collaboration with Volunteer Welfare Organisations like Silver Ribbon (Singapore), has a range of initiatives and programmes to promote greater awareness and understanding of mental illness, at the workplace and in the community. However, it is also up to us, as individuals, to make the effort to know about these programmes.

7. Richard C. Hunter, former Deputy Secretary General (1983 to 2002) of the World Federation for Mental Health, envisioned World Mental Health Day as a global and unified effort to promote greater public awareness and understanding of mental health and mental illness.

8. His dream continues to be realised every year in the month of October. Today, World Mental Health Day is celebrated in over 100 countries. Each year, we are heartened by the ever-increasing efforts to promote mental well-being and reduce the stigmatisation of mental disorders. The Great Via Ferrata Wall Challenge is a meaningful way to raise awareness and at the same time encourage everyone dealing with mental health issues.

9. In closing, I would like to applaud Orchard Central and Silver Ribbon (Singapore) for organising this event. I wish all participants of the Challenge best of luck. Thank you.