Channel NewsAsia

SAF looking into netizen’s claim of feigning depression for NS exemption

Servicemen with genuine psychological conditions would continue to be cared for, SAF reassures.

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is looking into a netizen’s claim that he obtained a discharge from National Service (NS) by feigning mental illness, but gave the assurance that servicemen with genuine psychological conditions would continue to be cared for.

The netizen posted on June 13 on the SAF Confessions Facebook page – which is not affiliated to the SAF or the Ministry of Defence – that he began going to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) a year before he was due to enlist, on the pretext of suffering from depression.

He acted up on the day of his enlistment to avoid having his head shaven, dishonestly obtained medical certificates from various places and even checked himself into the IMH to get himself discharged from National Service.

The netizen, who signed off as “A PES F-ed Recruit”, boasted that during his enlistment period of one-and-a-half months, he spent only an hour in camp. PES F refers to the physical employment status that exempts one from NS.

He drew swift condemnation, with 270 comments on his post as of Monday (June 16). The post has also drawn more than 265 “likes”. One Facebook user, Zhaohan Chua, said he “should be ashamed for perpetuating the perception that soldiers who are diagnosed with mental illnesses are faking it to escape National Service”.

The Singapore Army said on its Facebook page at about 4pm on Sunday that the SAF was looking into the case. “His dishonesty undermines our system of managing servicemen who genuinely suffer from mental illness. This serviceman had taken the care and consideration given to him by the SAF for granted,” the Army said, adding that servicemen with genuine psychological conditions would continue to be given care and assistance.

The issue of NSmen with mental illnesses was in the spotlight recently, with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen stating in Parliament last month that about 500 NSmen had been exempted each year for the past three years for mental health problems.

Pre-enlistees are screened by medical officers for psychiatric, behavioural and adjustment problems, and those with severe mental illnesses will be exempted from NS, a decision made by a specialist medical board, he had said.

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