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500 pre-enlistees exempted from NS annually in past 3 years: Dr Ng

Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen says mental health screenings are conducted before National Service enlistment, and those enlisted with known mental health conditions will be monitored during their NS stint. 

SINGAPORE: In the last three years, about 500 pre-enlistees with severe mental illness have been exempted from National Service duties annually.

Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen revealed this in Parliament on Thursday (May 29), while answering a question from Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC, Dr Fatimah Lateef. 

She had asked what strategies are used to screen mental health disorders in recruits, as well as what kind of management and counselling is offered in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Navy and Air Force, for those who have already been diagnosed with mental health disorders. 

Dr Ng said in response that before enlistment, pre-enlistees are screened by medical officers for psychiatric, behavioural and adjustment problems. These screening guidelines have been established by an SAF psychiatry specialist advisory board, and it consists of senior psychiatrists drawn from private practice and public hospitals. 

Those with severe mental illnesses and are unable to perform national duties, are exempt based on these screening guidelines, he added. 

Dr Ng also noted those enlisted with mental health disorders are monitored while serving NS. If there are doubts about an NSman's safety risk, or his ability to perform his duties, he would be reassessed by psychiatrists. He could then be redeployed to a suitable vocation if needed, or excused from NS duties, the Defence Minister said.

There are also avenues for help such as a 24-hour SAF counselling hotline (Tel: 1800-2780022). 

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