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SAF takes mental health issues seriously: Dr Ng

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen says the responsibility for identifying servicemen with potential mental health issues primarily falls on SAF's psychiatric boards, medical system and commanders. 

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) takes its servicemen's mental health seriously, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, adding that the task of identifying those with mental health issues must mainly fall on SAF's staff and systems.

Dr Ng, speaking to the media ahead of SAF Day on July 1, said the responsibility for recognising if a serviceman has mental health issues falls primarily in the hands of SAF's psychiatric boards, existing medical system and the commanders. This is because the layperson may not be able to recognise certain signs of mental illness, he added.  

However, buddies and peers of servicemen who may have mental health issues also share part of the responsibility in looking out for and flagging the more obvious indicators. General courses for NSmen and the buddy system are in place to help identify those with mental health issues, the minister said. 

In May, the minister shared in Parliament that about 500 pre-enlistees with severe mental illness have been exempted from National Service annually in the past three years, while those enlisted with mental health issues are monitored while serving NS.

RETAINING NSMEN WITH NICHE SKILLS

Dr Ng also unveiled the new Expertise Conversion scheme, which identified psychology as one of the niche skills the SAF is keen to retain.

The Scheme is for NSmen who have finished their reservist obligations, and have skills in areas such as law, medicine, engineering, psychology and infocommunications. Those who fit the criteria have the choice of extending their service for another three years, he said. 

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