Expat's Guide to Online Mental Health Services in Singapore

Mental Health in the Metaverse? Don't worry; online mental health in Singapore has a higher standard of care.

Living in a swanky Singapore serviced apartment will only get you so far when it comes to mental wellness. Not knowing if rental rates will come down doesn’t help either. Ensuring your mental well-being is essential for a smooth and fulfilling experience as an expat living in Singapore. Due to the advancements in technology, online mental health services have become more accessible and convenient. Embark on a journey through the digital realm of mental wellness as we uncover the abundant array of online mental health services tailored specifically for expats in the vibrant city of Singapore. Discover the keys to unlocking your peace of mind while embracing your life abroad with the help of online mental health services in Singapore.

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Mental Health Issues in Singapore

Despite ongoing efforts to increase awareness and reduce stigma, mental health continues to be a sensitive topic in Singaporean society. Some people are hesitant to seek help because the fear of being labelled or judged.

While there are strides in the acceptance of mental illness, Singapore faces an uphill battle when it comes to youth mental health. According to Samaritans of Singapore, suicides in Singapore rose to their highest in over 20 Years in 2023. And a majority of mental health conditions remain untreated. A survey by NUS Medical School and the Institute of Mental Health reported that 64% of respondents have to pay an unplanned visit to hospital emergency departments or need in-patient medical services.

3 Reasons Why Online Mental Health Can Help Expats

1. Privacy and Comfort

With Singapore’s efficient public transportation, getting to a counselling psychologist or government healthcare facilities isn’t really a hassle. But even if access to healthcare systems isn’t a problem, the fear of judgement and stigma is. That’s why some turn to online mental health platforms first. Those platforms can offer anonymity and privacy, which can make it easier for some as they reach out for support.

In addition, having face-to-face interaction with a counsellor can be difficult for some. But patients can receive care for their mind health over the internet with these platforms, allowing expats to seek support without compromising their privacy, all from the comfort of their living spaces.

2. Flexibility

Frequent travel, irregular working hours, special events; the expat life can be exciting. So booking a session of traditional in-person therapy can be difficult because of scheduling conflicts. With online mental health services, expats can schedule their individual counselling services according to their own timings. This flexibility ensures that expats can prioritize their mental health while managing their unique lifestyles.

3. Continuity of Care

They don’t need to find a new therapist when they first move to Singapore if the healthcare provider in their home country has a telehealth option. Not to mention, finding a new therapist or counsellor isn’t always easy. With online therapy, they can continue their therapy with the same people they know and trust. This consistency gives expats one less thing to worry about as they adjust to a new life abroad.

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3 Types of Online Mental Health Services in Singapore

Singapore is very much at the forefront of technology and innovation. Mental wellness in Singapore has certainly benefited from that. More and more groups are offering online mental health services. And some of them come from unexpected places.

1. Singapore-based Online Mental Health Services

This is perhaps the go-to choice for expats getting online therapy in Singapore. As much as they have excellent healthcare facilities, public hospitals and private hospitals have yet to offer online mental health services in Singapore at the time of writing. But there are several mental health institutions and private practices adapting to the digital landscape, where they offer online counselling sessions with their team of counsellors. Even renowned organisations are joining in, with the likes of the Institute of Mental HealthSamaritans of Singapore, and Singapore Counselling Centre offering various forms of online mental health services catered to expats through their team of psychologists.

There are plenty of options for LGBTQ+ expats too. One of the first options they can try is Oogachaga, a non-profit that works with LGBTQ+ persons in Singapore on issues such as sexuality, identity, relationships, mental health and sexual health. Besides professional counselling, Oogachaga provides Singapore’s only dedicated Whatsapp counselling service for the LGBTQ+ community, where they provide confidential emotional support. Their trained volunteers can also help through Email Counselling for those who prefer to express themselves in writing.

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2. Virtual Therapy Platforms

You’ve probably heard of them in podcasts or on Youtube videos before. These online counselling platforms have risen in popularity and have expanded their reach across the world. Platforms like BetterHelp, Talkspace, and Teladoc Health offer online therapy with specialised licensed therapists. You can find a therapist that better suits your needs, be it depression or anxiety therapy.

3. Online Support Groups and Communities

Seeing a counsellor can still be daunting for some, even if it’s online therapy. But finding people who have similar experiences can help expats cope with mental illness. They can find a sense of belonging and support from online groups or Forums too. If you have a question about it, perhaps the askSingapore thread in Singapore can help too. People in that subreddit are mostly helpful (mostly).

There are even communities on Discord servers too: the Huddleverse server has about 40,000 members around the world. They maintain a strict approach in moderating the servers to help members feel safe—ithey’ve already banned about 3,00 users. Discord servers are often preferred as the platform itself already has safeguards in place. The vast majority of its servers are invite-only and private, and it also has a filter that helps moderate explicit or sensitive content on its platform.

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Are Online Mental Health Services Enough?

Online mental health platforms often market convenience and happiness in a snap of your fingers. While for some these services and platforms can be easy and effective, these coping methods can stop working. By their very nature, online mental health services aren’t conducive for therapists to utilise their skill, tact and patience necessary for helping patients with their mental health conditions. Plus, there is also the question of privacy and confidentiality in online mental health treatments.

After all, when online therapy opens a can of worms, it can be difficult to contain it. While some say that is better than no treatment at all, studies of therapeutic effectiveness have shown that the quality of the relationship between a person and their therapist is an important variable for successful treatment.

Trained therapists are skilled at recognising and addressing emerging patterns, working together with you to explore them. The outcome is a live, personal encounter with someone who can assist you in replacing harmful habits with healthier ones. However, developing relationships takes time. So an online encounter that is relatively anonymous might not be able to replicate the beneficial aspects of a caring therapeutic relationship.

That said, there is still a need for a holistic approach towards treating mental health. And that involves a range of interventions, including in-person therapy, medication management, support groups, lifestyle changes, and self-care practices. Combining these different approaches with online mental health services can offer more comprehensive treatment for mental health conditions.

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Does Insurance Cover Online Mental Health in Singapore?

While most private healthcare insurance benefits cover a lot of health conditions, mental health still isn’t widely covered. While the Medishield Life Council has recommended extending coverage for attempted suicide, self-inflicted injury, drug addiction and alcoholism, there is still a long way to go.

Medical costs for mental healthcare remain expensive. In Singapore’s healthcare system, subsidised counselling session costs around S$30 to S$50 per session, and psychiatric medication may cost upwards of S$100. Therapy sessions for private healthcare may cost up to $150 or more. So the costs can get pretty high for expats since they cannot get insured by the national health insurance scheme.

Studies conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) have found that the absence of insurance coverage is a major contributing factor in the delay of accessing treatment across different countries. But for Singapore, things may be changing.

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Expats can look to private health insurance coverage for mental health from AIA. AIA became Singapore’s first insurer to cover mental health conditions with the AIA Beyond Critical Care Insurance Plan. Under the plan, A total of 5 claims may be made for all covered mental illnesses, with each claim capped at S$50,000 for a covered mental illness. Though each claim is subject to a waiting period of 3 years. And, the total amount payable to you for all covered mental illnesses under AIA Beyond Critical Care and all other policies issued by AIA is limited to S$150,000.

Raffles Health Insurance, together with Bupa Global allows you the option of covering mental health in your health insurance plan. They offer direct access to specialist care globally, allowing you to access medical treatments whether you’re at home or abroad.

Great Eastern offers three medical insurance plans that provide mental health coverage. The GREAT CareShield Advantage plan offers an initial lump sum payout for mental health conditions that result in the inability to perform at least one activity of daily living, such as dressing and feeding. The Pay Assure plan provides coverage for customers who cannot work in their current job due to illness, including mental illness or injury. The GREAT Family Care plan offers the option to add a rider for their parents, covering conditions like severe dementia and Alzheimer’s disease without requiring medical underwriting.

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Online mental health services offer expats in Singapore a convenient and accessible option to begin treatment for their mental health conditions effectively. Even so, there’s a need to recognise their limitations. Online therapy may not substitute in-person therapy or meet all mental health needs, especially in times of crisis.

By combining different modalities and considering individual preferences and needs, expats can access a well-rounded medical care experience that best supports their overall well-being, at home and abroad.

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Mental Health Support Lines

If you’ve been affected by this story, or if you need any kind of help with your mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out for counselling services. Here are some of the people you can contact:

  • Samaritans of Singapore

24-hour Hotline: 1767

24-hour CareText (WhatsApp): 9151 1767

  • Singapore Association for Mental Health

Telephone: +65 6255 3222

Toll-Free Helpline: 1800-283-7019

  • Institute of Mental Health

24-hour mainline: +65 6389 2000

• National Care Hotline:

1800-202-6868 (8am – 8pm)

About the Writer: Benedict Lim

As the resident punmaker, Benedict is really bad at making people laugh. They’re much better at diving into the nuances of the things they write about.