The Ministry of Health Office for Healthcare Transformation (MOHT) has launched a new version of mindline.sg, a resource for Singaporeans to cope with the stresses of the protracted COVID-19 pandemic and adjust to life in a “new normal”.
This new version of the web-app service mindline.sg now includes access to internationally-acclaimed Wysa, an emotionally intelligent chatbot. Wysa is an award-winning chat platform for AI-guided mental health self-care. Wysa is usually a paid service that is now being made available to mindline.sg users free-of-charge for an initial period of one year.
mindline.sg is Singapore-developed stress management and coping website that consolidates access to local resources with a wellbeing self-assessment tool. A multi-disciplinary team, including clinicians and social and computer scientists from the Ministry of Health Office for Healthcare Transformation (MOHT), the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), and the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), jointly developed mindline.sg.
mindline.sg and Wysa have been integrated to maximize ease-of-use. All usage is completely anonymous and no personal or identifiable information is collected. The new and expanded version of mindline.sg will help individuals manage stress and anxiety through a wide range of self-help resources and exercises and, if needed, direct users to local resources and hotlines.
With the latest enhancement, mindline.sg will allow users to access resources, confidentially work through issues, resolve stress, and access tools to decrease worries, improve sleep, etc. It will also suggest useful hotline numbers should the user need to talk to someone about his or her issues. In addition, collaboration with Wysa provides mindline.sg users with access to meditation, breathing, yoga, motivational conversations, and exercises.
Said Professor Robert Morris, MOHT’s Chief Technology Strategist: “We are often inundated with information when all we really need is a chance to be listened to, and to ask the right questions so we can figure things out. Think of mindline.sg as a battery of useful resources, a constant companion and trusted friend, who listens to us and guides us through our challenges in a privacy-preserving and non-judgmental manner. If needed, it will guide us on how to reach out for help.”
Useful During COVID-19
“Where mental health is concerned, we are looking at a whole spectrum that involves not just mental health disorders. A large part of our challenge is psychological and emotional distress as a reaction to these extraordinary circumstances.
For many of us, we have had to make huge adjustments in work, study, as well as in our family and social lives. In non-pandemic times, we will experience stressors and some tend to be transient. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic and social consequences, the stress tends to be protracted and emotional reactions can be more severe,” said Dr. Jimmy Lee, Senior Consultant at IMH.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought mental health awareness to the forefront, many could be hesitant to reach out for help due to concerns of social stigma. Said Dr. Lee: “We hope that by providing an anonymous and safe space, and availing users to the self-assessment tool with needs-matching to resources, we can reduce the barriers to help-seeking, and empower them to take the first step to self-management and regaining their emotional and mental wellbeing.”
Added Ms. Vivienne Ng, Chief Psychologist at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF): “We recognize that in these extraordinary times, the issues individuals face tend to be complex, with many overlapping areas of stress like financial and marital strains as well as caregiving needs. Therefore, we wanted a platform that is comprehensive and able to cater to various needs during this difficult time.”
Empowering Users Through Technology
Easily accessible on a smartphone or computer, users can assess their own needs, find appropriate help and resources conveniently, and feel empowered to manage their own stress through the use of technology.
“One challenge of seeking help is finding a suitable service that caters to individual needs. mindline.sg is a useful tool for this purpose. We encourage social service agencies to promote mindline.sg so that more can be aware of this tool,” said Mr. Chan Whee Peng, Director of Services, Service Planning & Funding Group at the National Council of Social Service (NCSS).
Said Dr. Loke Wai Chiong, Clinical Director (Programmes) and Head (Integrated Health Promotion) at MOHT: “We will continue to observe the usage of mindline.sg, gather information, and make improvements, for example adding specialized services for specific population groups such as youths, seniors, and healthcare workers. We will also work towards building more culturally-contextualized content, responsive to the evolving needs of the community. In the longer term, we hope that this innovation can increase public health capability, and create high impact at a relatively low cost.”
“We’re delighted to see Wysa’s AI-guided support integrated into Singapore’s mental health services, so it can act as a ‘digital front door’ to provide help even at 4 am” added Ramakant Vempati, co-founder, Wysa. “This has been flexibly integrated with existing services so users can either get self-care or escalate to the right service while maintaining clinical assurance and privacy. Collaborating with mindline.sg is a big step forward in our mission of enabling access to mental health at scale”, he concluded.