4-minute read

How to interact with people with mental health concerns

What to say and do in different scenarios when you think someone has a mental health condition.

It could be a classmate, an acquaintance at work, or just someone you’re sitting next to on the bus. 

With one in seven in Singapore having experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, chances are that someone you know is working through problems related to mental health. 

Many struggle alone, isolated by the stigma surrounding mental disorders. But they don’t have to — we can help. 

Here are some tips on what you can do when you encounter someone dealing with a mental health issue.

The following is adapted from Interacting with Persons with Mental Health issues, copyright © National Council of Social Service. The resources on this page are meant to be educational, and should not be taken as medical advice. If you suspect you have a mental health concern, seek help from professionals before taking any action. 

At school
At home
At work

What to do — At school

You are a secondary school student. One of your classmates is reacting strongly to people’s comments and flares up at the slightest provocation.

Watch and see:

Note your classmate’s behaviour

  • Is she unusually withdrawn?

  • Does she react strongly to what is said in conversations?

Find out more: 

  • Visit the REACH for Students website or contact 6389 2000.

Talk: 

  • Raise your concerns to your classmate. Let her know that you care about her and have observed a change in her behaviour recently.

  • Show her you are supportive and ready to lend a listening ear.

  • If she indicates that she would like to seek help, suggest that she sees a school counsellor or visit CHAT Hub for a free assessment, or contact 6493 6500.

Seek help: 

  • Talk to a teacher and the school counsellor about the changes you observed in your classmate’s behaviour.


What to do — At home

A family member recently has been unusually withdrawn. He has stopped talking to the rest of the family. He keeps to himself and stays in his room. For the last few weeks, he has not been going out or participating in his usual activities.

Watch and see: 

Note your family member’s behaviour

  • Does he react very strongly to what is said in conversations?

  • What does he do when he is in his room?

  • Are there any signs of self-hurting behaviour, such as unexplained bruises or cuts on his body?

Find out more: 

  • Visit the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) website and navigate to Clinical Services > Common Conditions or contact 6389 2000

Talk: 

  • Share your concerns with your family member about the recent changes in his behaviour that you have observed.

  • Let him know that you care about him, and express your support and readiness to lend a listening ear.

  • Suggest an activity that you enjoyed doing together previously, but may have recently stopped engaging in.

Seek help: 

  • Raise your concerns with other family members, share opinions and see if they have any concerns or suggestions. 

  • Check out resources offered by mental health agencies such as the Singapore Association for Mental Health’s (SAMH) website  or contact 1800-283 7019  


Your son has been playing computer games all day and all night. He played so much that he forgot to eat, and the playing has affected his school performance.

Watch and see: 

Observe his behaviour

  • Is he losing interest in other activities and social relationships besides gaming?

  • Does he flare up at anyone who threatens his gaming habit?

  • Has he tried to stop gaming but failed?

Find out more: 

  • Visit the National Addictions Management Service website and navigate to Addictions > Gaming/Internet or contact 6732 6837

Talk: 

  • Tell your son that you are concerned about him, without nagging. Let him know that you care about him.

  • Understand what is compelling your son to play computer games. Is it a need for achievement, a social need or a need to escape from problems?

Seek help: 

Speak to a school counsellor or contact TOUCH Cyber Wellness at 6273 5568 or email them at [email protected] for more information and assessment.


What to do — At work

Your co-worker is unusually talkative and seems to be on edge. She sent an email to all the staff in your organisation regarding a personal matter which was somewhat incoherent.

Watch and see: 

Note your colleague’s behaviour

  • Is your colleague’s agitation keeping her from working normally?

  • Is her behaviour interrupting others?

Find out more: 

  • Visit the IMH website and navigate to Clinical Services > Common Conditions or contact 6389 2000

Talk: 

  • Have a private chat with her to see what is going on. Does she know that her behaviour of late is unusual?

  • Express your concerns and note specific incidents to provide a basis for discussion.

Seek help: 

  • Raise your concerns with other colleagues or supervisor; share opinions and find out if they have any concerns or suggestions.

  • You may wish to contact Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS) Employment Support Services at 6801 0490 or email to [email protected] to find out how to better support your colleague at work.

You are interviewing selected candidates for an executive position. One bright young man who has been selected reveals at the interview that he has a mental health condition.

Watch and see: 

Assess his level of readiness and understanding of the job

  • What is his level of understanding of his condition?

  • What is his ability to identify his triggers and his coping skills and support resources?

  • Is he motivated?

Find out more: 

  • Visit the IMH Job Club website or contact 6389 2678

Talk: 

  • Praise his openness and honesty with regards to his disclosure.

  • Engage him further to understand his awareness and ability to manage his condition.

  • Be clear and upfront with him on the job description, roles, expectations, working environment, and potential job stressors.

  • If the person is agreeable, provide the team with information that he has shared with you so the team will be able to make an informed decision on employment suitability.

Seek help: 

  • Seek the advice of IMH Job Club and SACS Employment Support Services on how to support him in the workplace.

 

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