We’re always joking about slaving our lives away, but that’s only because it’s true — very often, living, studying and working in Singapore can feel like being in a pressure cooker.
According to the second Singapore Mental Health Study (published Dec 2018), 1 in 7 people in Singapore has experienced a mood, anxiety or alcohol-use disorder in their lifetime. And of the conditions assessed, major depressive disorder (or major depression) was the most common, affecting 1 in 16 people here.
The study also found a significant treatment gap, in that many of those struggling did not seek professional help. It did not investigate the reasons for this, but past research suggest it could be due to the stigma of mental illness and the inability to recognise the symptoms.
If suspect that you or a loved one may be fighting mental illness, know that affordable (and even free) help is available.
- Free counselling services in Singapore
- Affordable and subsidised counselling services
- Using Medisave for psychiatric treatment
- Subsidised rates at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH)
Free counselling in Singapore
Depending on which you prefer, there are free options for both helpline and face-to-face counselling.
1. Family Life Society counselling at Catholic churches
Family Life Society (FLS) is a non-profit charity, and although it’s not officially “religious”, the patron is the Catholic Archbishop of Singapore. That said, they explicitly state that they offer professional help to anyone and everyone, regardless or race, religion or background.
While FLS focuses on pregnancy and parenting counselling, they also support those struggling with personal and family issues.
FLS has a volunteer-counsellors who offer free counselling services at 10 Catholic churches in Singapore (full list of parishes here).
Contact: 64880278 or 6382 0688 (Mon to Fri, 10am to 5pm)
Counselling services at other Christian churches
Besides Care Corner and FLS, many churches also have volunteers who help with counselling. If you’re a Christian, it’s pretty straightforward: just check with your church.
But what if you’re not of the same faith? It may problematic if you are practising another religion, but if you’re considering church counselling services, you’re probably a free-thinker or have no religion.
If that’s the case, there’s no harm in finding out what the churches may have to offer. They’re unlikely to turn you down, and from what I’ve read online, most churches do help others in need as well.
Although some evangelism is to be expected, some churches like Wesley Methodist Church explicitly state on their website that they have non-religious counselling as well.
2. Counselling helplines
If you are uncomfortable with committing to an actual, in-person session, then you can consider a phone call or online helpline instead.
|Free counselling helpline||Contact information||What it is|
|AWARE helpline||Call 1800-774 5935||A helpline for women|
|Care Corner Counselling Centre||Call 1800-353 5800||A Mandarin counselling helpline|
|Fei Yue eCounselling Centre||Visit www.ec2.sg or www.egen.sg, or email [email protected].||An online counselling channel for youths|
|Samaritans of Singapore (SOS)||Call 1800–221 4444 (24 hours)||A suicide prevention helpline|
|Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH)||Call 1800-283 7019||A helpline for all mental health-related help|
|Tinkle Friend helpline (by Singapore Children’s Society)||Call 1800–274 4788 (Mon to Fri, 2.30pm to 5pm) or chat online at www.tinklefriend.com.||A helpline and chat-line for primary school children|
Affordable counselling services in Singapore
If budget is a concern, then the free counselling services are the first ones to check out. However, with all free (or heavily subsidised) healthcare services, it may be hard to get a first appointment. And if you decide to continue, the time between sessions will probably be longer than recommended.
If you can afford to pay a bit for counselling, there are some affordable and subsidised options too.
|Counselling services in Singapore||Counselling fees|
|AWARE (for women only)||1% of your monthly income (capped at $150; min. fee is $20 for those who are unemployed)|
|Shan You||$40 per session (50 to 60 mins for couples; 60 to 75 mins for families)|
|Counselling and Care Centre||$40 to $150 per hour for Singaporean/PR earning under $10,000 monthly (full rate at $180 per hour)|
|Calvary Community Care (C3)||$50 per session, $5 for those who need financial assistance|
|WINGS Counselling Centre||$80 for the first session, $60 for subsequent follow-up sessions|
|Grace Counselling Centre||Fees from $150 per 60-min session|
|Singapore Counselling Centre||Fees from $181.90 for 1 session|
AWARE (for women only)
AWARE is a gender-equality advocacy group that helps women fight discrimination and other issues.
The counselling fees are charged at 1% of your monthly income (capped at $150). For example, if you earn $3,000 monthly, you will pay $30 per session.
For those who are not working, it will be $20. For sexual assault and harassment cases through the Sexual Assault Care Centre, the first 3 sessions are free.
Shan You is a non-profit organisation that offers counselling at affordable rates. The charity has Buddhist roots, but is not religious — they just follow the generic guiding values of compassion, mindfulness, morality and wisdom.
Shan You charges $40 per session (50 to 60 mins for couples; 60 to 75 mins for families). If it’s still too expensive for you, you can request for a discount or waiver and it will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Shan You Counselling Centre Clinical Director.
Counselling and Care Centre
Counselling and Care Centre is a non-government, non-profit, registered charity offering professional counselling services.
Counselling is $180 per hour, which seems steep. However, they have a subsidy system that offers lower rates as long as you earn less than $10,000 monthly. You have to be a Singaporean or PR though.
Also, do note that if you make an after-hours appointment (anytime after Mon to Fri, 8.30am to 6pm), there is a +$10 surcharge.
Calvary Community Care
Known as C3, this social service agency was founded by the Calvary Baptist Church in 2010 and provides support to children, youth and seniors.
Their counselling service is for youth aged 13 to 25 and have experience with youths who face abuse and trauma, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, grief, self-harm and have demonstrated thoughts of suicide.
What’s helpful is that they work together with families to resolve communication issues and manage conflict.
WINGS Counselling Centre
WINGS Counselling Centre was founded in 1995 from NCSS, as a pilot project called Ramakrishna Mission Counselling Centre (RMCC). It started off focusing on guidance for troubled youth, but it’s since evolved to offer support for families and other individuals as well.
Counselling is $80 for the first session, and $60 for subsequent follow-up sessions. Full and partial waivers are available at the discretion of the centre.
Grace Counselling Centre
Grace Counselling Centre is Singapore’s first Christian counselling centre, formed in 2009. But although a Christ-centred organisation, they do non-religious counselling too.
The fees are slightly steeper than those above: for individuals, it’s $150 for a 1-hour session. For couples seeking relationship and marriage counselling, it’s $250 per 90-min session. Home visits are available at $300 per session.
Singapore Counselling Centre
Singapore Counselling Centre offers professional counselling in not just English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, but Chinese dialects Cantonese and Hokkien too. Their services are also available 7 days a week, which may be good for those working on the weekdays.
SCC offers different rates for individuals, couples, families and children and youth. A 1-session package is $160.60 for individuals, $235.40 for couples, $160.50 for children and youth and $363.80 for families (4 pax).
You can buy up to 10-session packages, and save 10% to 20% on the per-session rates. There’s also a choice to see senior counsellors, but they are slightly more expensive.
Care Corner Counselling Centre
The Care Corner mainly reaches out to needy, lower-income families, but their wide range of services includes counselling for anyone who needs help.
The mandarin hotline is free, but the face-to-face counselling is chargeable. The rates are not published, but you can call them up to enquire. They are a non-profit social service organisation with 33 centres in Singapore.
Note: counselling is not psychiatry!
There is a difference between feeling troubled or stressed and clinical mental illness. Depending on which you are struggling with, counselling may or may not be enough and/or helpful.
Counselling involves talking about your difficulties and working through your problems with a counsellor. It is usually the first step to seeking help. However, if you or a loved one suspect a mental disorder, it may be better to see a psychiatrist instead.
As a medical professional, they would be able to diagnose your condition and prescribe the right medication for it (if needed).
Using Medisave for mental illnesses
If you did not know, Medisave can be used for psychiatric treatment too. For inpatient treatment, you can use up to $150 per day for daily hospital charges, capped at $5,000 per year.
Under the MediSave500 scheme, you can also use up to $500 per Medisave account for 20 chronic diseases including major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, dementia and anxiety. You’ll have to pay a 15% co-payment though.
For reference, these are the charges at IMH.
Subsidised outpatient charges at IMH:
|IMH Outpatient treatment||Subsidised fees (based on minimum subsidy)|
|First consultation — adult||$40|
|Subsequent consultation — adult||$37|
|First consultation — child or adolescent||$45|
|Subsequent consultation — child or adolescent||$42|
|Emergency attendance fee||$120|
Subsidised inpatient charges at IMH:
|IMH inpatient treatment||Subsidised fees for C ward (based on maximum subsidy)||Subsidised fees for B2 ward (based on maximum subsidy)|
|Daily ward fee||$32||$61|
|Daily treatment fee||$15||$31|
For hospitalisation, you will be given financial counselling on your estimated bill size upon admission. A deposit is typically collected at the same time, even if you use Medisave (unless your Medisave fully covers it).
For IMH, Medisave cannot be used for outpatient fees, tests and hospital stays for less than 8 hours.
You will not be denied admission if you cannot cough up the cash. Instead, those with financial difficulties will be referred to their in-house medical social workers.
If you have any more recommended avenues for seeking help, please share them in the comments below.