Why Singapore is far from building a culture of openness around mental health

Why Singapore is far from building a culture of openness around mental health

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An annual study by Roffey Park Institute, Profile Search & Selection, and The Next Step finds that managers in the Asia Pacific region find it difficult to discuss mental health issues at work, even as employees themselves are reluctant to divulge how they are feeling in a work setting.

Titled Working in Asia Pacific: Key HR and Leadership Priorities for 2019, the report is based on the views of more than 2,000 managers and non-managers across Singapore, Hong Kong, mainland China and Australia.


Fewer than half of 970 respondents in Singapore would be confident that they would begin a conversation on mental health issues either with their line manager (47%) or a colleague (46%). Australians are much more comfortable in doing so, though they are more likely to have this conversation with a colleague (74%) than their manager (67%).

Of course, open conversations require a conducive organisational culture, where the data suggests there continues to be room for improvement. It is Singaporeans who experience a culture that is least open about, and accepting of, mental health issues (40%). (Australia 65%; Hong Kong 48%; China 46%).

The table below illustrates such trends across the regions covered:


What's causing stress in the first place?

Organisational politics was listed as the biggest cause of stress across Singapore (47%), Hong Kong (39%), and Australia (40%).

In China, the two biggest causes of workplace stress were lack of support, and lack of control over the one's own work (both listed by 35% of respondents). "This combination is often linked with a success-oriented culture, but there are downsides which shouldn’t be ignored," the researchers stated.


What are companies doing about it?

Across Singapore, the maximum numbers of respondents (44%) say they "don't think anything is offered", when it comes to providing organisational support.

However, among what is available, an overwhelmingly large number of respondents in Australia (92%) are provided Employee Assistance Programmes - available to 34% of Singapore respondents, 39% of Hong Kong respondents, and 23% of China respondents.

Chinese employees are most likely to have access to medical professionals as a first source of support, but this is closely followed by on-site counselling or assistance and then by amended working practices and reasonable adjustments.

In addition, 35% of survey respondents in China work for companies who offer mental health training, compared to 23% in Hong Kong and 20% in Singapore.

Interestingly, around one quarter of people in Singapore, Hong Kong and China feel that they work in an environment that engenders an open and supportive culture – suggesting that Asia Pacific organisations are making some progress towards being more comfortable in addressing mental health issues than ignoring them.

The table below illustrates what kind of organisational support is being provided:


All images / Report

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