COVID-19, over 716 days later (Photo by Ng Shi Wen)

COVID-19, over 716 days later: Confronting Singapore’s long-term, pandemic-linked social challenges

So much ink has been spilled on Singapore’s healthcare and public health response to the ongoing pandemic. Yet, there will be an end to COVID-19, and the start of 2022 feels like a good time to shift some of the public focus to our country’s long-term, pandemic-linked social challenges. In this short episode, I summarise the most urgent and obvious problems – migrant, healthcare, and economically disadvantaged essential workers – before detailing four challenges which have received less attention: First, the harm to children, adolescents, and youths; second, compounded socio-economic inequality; third, social isolation; and fourth, ambiguous loss and unresolved grief.

Contemplation on a beach (Photo by Stefan Spassov on Unsplash)

#AreWeOkay and the proposal for a Mental Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Office in Singapore

SG Mental Health Matters is a community of mental health advocates and researchers, and in 2021 they ran the #AreWeOkay poll to better understand the issues of access, affordability, and quality of mental healthcare in Singapore. With two of its members today – former nominated member of parliament Anthea Ong and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Rayner Tan – we learn more about the community’s work, the poll’s findings, and their proposal for a Mental Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Office in Singapore.

Nurses in blue walking out of a food court (Photo by Ng Shi Wen)

“Are we listening?”: Coalescing around downstream and upstream mental health action (Anthea Ong; COVID-19, one year on)

One year ago, we documented community initiatives and discussed structural challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore. One year later, we are inviting the same guests back to talk about their work, how they are feeling, and what they think we have learnt or have yet to learn from the pandemic. Today, we have former nominated member of parliament Anthea Ong. Our conversation centres on mental and psychological health in Singapore as well as moving from awareness to acceptance to action. Anthea also shares the initiatives in which she’s been involved and her new podcast series, “Shades of Love”, set to launch on August 7 this year.

Singaporeans are getting more sleep in 2020 (compared to 2019). But why?

A study by health technology company Royal Philips found that Singaporeans now get an average of 6.9 hours of sleep every night in 2020 – compared to 6.4 hours in 2019 (CNA, Mar. 13) – but beyond the descriptive information there is little explanation for the increase in the number of hours. In other words, among the 1,000 surveyed respondents*, why are they getting more sleep over the last year? As per the study findings, is it solely related to caffeine intake? More proper bedtime or wake-up schedules? Or the increase in the take-up of reading?

Man on laptop

“Coronavirus: 81 per cent afraid of infection”: Reporting more than just poll proportions

Poll proportions alone (or percentages) – for instance, that 81 per cent of Singaporeans are afraid of infection and that 35 per cent would still attend events even with mild symptoms (ST, Feb. 17) – may provide some useful descriptive information, yet news agencies could explore more effective ways to present the information, include cross tabulations to explore the relationship between different variables, and consequently use the data to better inform policy decisions.