Updated: Feb 7
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A recent news article globally talked about Languishing, or the feeling of restlessness, apathy and emptiness. While this is not a mental illness, it could lead to illness down the road. Allegedly, 10% of people from 78 countries felt Languishing during the pandemic. While many may not even know it, their mental wellness, not mental health, is in a poor state. 
In Singapore, the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) found that 13% experienced symptoms of depression or anxiety between May 2020 and June 2021. This might be due to fear of infection, changes in daily routine, social isolation due to safe management measures, and economic uncertainty. 
What is the difference between Mental Wellness vs Mental Health? What are ways, tips, and activities to improve Mental Wellness? What is Mental Illness and what are the causes? This article will answer these questions and more.
What is Mental Wellness?
Mental Wellness refers to a mind that is in order and functioning in an individual’s best interest. It is a process of flourishing; a person can be mentally well even if their mental health is poor.  This is because poor mental health is not a choice, but with mental wellness, a person can reinforce their mental health.
An individual with mental wellness thinks, feels, and acts in a way that positively affects their physical and social well-being. They are self-assured and in control of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. Managing challenges and building healthy relationships, they are able to enjoy life. 
Physical Wellness vs Mental Wellness
Physical wellness refers to the physical aspects of a person down to seemingly minor aspects like gut microbiome. You may wish to read this article on Happiness Chemicals and understand how the gut microbiome affects a person’s mentality.
An individual who is mentally well will also be physically well due to the interplay  between both aspects of a person. Their choices in terms of rest, diet, and physical activity will be balanced.  Their mentality enables this. Even if afflicted with a physical illness or disability, they will manage the stress and challenges well.
Mental Wellness vs Mental Health
Mental Health refers to emotional, psychological and social well-being. It does not reflect or determine a person’s reality, while Mental Wellness does. Besides biological factors, mental health is affected by life experiences and family history. Mental Health affects but does not determine how a person thinks, feels and acts. 
Why is Mental Wellness Important?
Mental Wellness is important as it helps one to be in control of their life despite obstacles. It is what enables one to lead a fulfilling life. With low Mental Wellness, one might find themselves in a worse state compared to suffering from Mental Illness. It is also a factor for Mental Illness. 
4 Key Points to Mental Wellness
Realising one’s abilities (and limitations)
Coping with stress and life challenges
Contribution to community
5 Key Things Everyone Should Know About Mental Wellness
1. Mental Wellness is not about the absence of Mental Illness
Mental Wellness and Illness does not lie on a continuum with severe and chronic mental illnesses on one end; happiness and flourishing on the other. The relationship is more complex and dynamic. Each of them sits on two different continuums. See the next two paragraphs for an elaboration.
Envision a horizontal axis measuring mental illness from high to low. This includes the presence or absence of diagnosable mental illness based upon the DSTM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The approach of treatment is usually clinical or pathogenic, meaning based on causes of illness. The treatment addresses symptoms and is usually provided by mental health professionals.
The vertical axis measuring mental wellness ranges from languishing to flourishing. There are no clinical conditions here. Stress, worry, loneliness, sadness are on one end; happiness, life satisfaction, healthy relationships, personal growth are on the other. Mental Wellness provides a salutogenic approach. It is aimed at preventing illness, maintaining optimal mental health and well-being. Care is offered by the individual, to themselves.
2. Mental wellness is an active process
Mental Wellness is a process and proactive strategy that an individual initiates to strengthen their mental, emotional, social and psychological resources. While mental wellness is about preventing illness, managing adversities and resilience, there is another aspect to it that was implied earlier.
Flourishing refers to a meaningful existence, a peak mental state. You may have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is one of the popular developments that shaped the idea of Flourishing.
What it means to Flourish, is different for each person, as only they can determine their meaning in life. Values, beliefs, culture, and the personal journey of an individual contribute to their idea of Flourishing.
3. Mental Wellness shifts perspectives away from stigma to shared humanity and shared responsibility
Shame, denial, and secrecy in regards to mental health pervade people from all over. Mental Wellness is an empowering approach, instead of just focusing on preventing or managing illness.
Mental Wellness highlights the ability to be resilient, alleviate suffering, find happiness, peace, and fulfilment. It is not necessary to feel ashamed or alone when realising that this is a universal condition and longing shared by all.
While treatment of mental illness focuses on an individual’s behaviour and individual-level interactions, mental wellness promotes a holistic approach. Psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy aside, social and environmental factors like family, friends, community connections and living environments are vital.
Mental Wellness shifts perspectives toward a shared sense of humanity and responsibility. Also, it highlights external forces that significantly affect mental health and well-being. For instance, socioeconomic status, culture, values, built environment, technology and many others.
4. Mental Wellness stems from a grassroots, consumer-driven movement
The following are key problems faced by populations all over:
Help people with mental illness
Help people in mental distress vulnerable to a mental illness
Increase resources to tackle growing needs
Talk-and-pills does not work universally
Poor Mental Wellness, i.e. Languishing, needs non-clinical, non-pathologising wellness strategies and tools to cope
Mental health is not well-integrated into public health systems.
Healthcare systems do not care about stress, loneliness, sadness or burnout.
In response, mental wellness grew out of a grassroots, consumer-led movement, that “seeks self-directed, alternative solutions outside of the established fields of medicine, psychiatry, and psychology.”
These aforementioned solutions may be ancient practices. Usually, these natural and complementary modalities of mental wellness do not exist in healthcare systems, nor is reimbursement available for them.
Most of these modalities do not have clinical evidence and double-blind studies (required for approval of medical treatment protocols and pharmaceuticals) to validate them.
5. Mental wellness is multi-dimensional, holistic, and personal
Mental Wellness includes the integrated and holistic nature of health and well-being. Improving mental wellness comes with varied and inclusive strategies and tools. These are covered in GWI’s 2018 Mental Wellness Initiative white paper and in a recently published chapter in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Global Public Health. 
What is Good Mental Wellness?
Good Mental Wellness is personal to everyone. There can only be some guidance to what contributes to Good Mental Health and Wellbeing. Accordingly, measuring mental wellness is not possible as it involves self-reporting tools, and thus subjective. 
Working Towards Mental Wellness
Attend to needs and feelings
Express your thoughts through a journal or blog to understand more about yourself
‘Being at peace’ as it is sometimes called, means learning about yourself, especially your likes.
List your strengths and weakness, acknowledge them, and strengthen them.
Acknowledge what you can change and what you cannot change; ‘play with the hand that you have been dealt’. Doing otherwise only makes you worse.
Work towards goals
Set SMART goals
Achievable; it is ok to have unrealistic goals, but it is unhelpful to identify closely with them
Choose a healthy lifestyle
Nutrition and exercise
Choose healthy relationships
You may wish to read the Ultimate Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship
Spend on needs instead of wants
Avoid excessive expenditure
Avoid consumerism; an unnatural way to live
Ensure you like the cause, do not force yourself to volunteer
Sense of community, purpose and satisfaction
10 Ways to Achieve Mental Wellness
Minimum of 8 hours sleep daily - this means a more alert you that is less vulnerable to stress. Also strengthens memory
Healthy diet - Omega 3 fatty acids cut the risk of dementia and mental decline. Foods rich in these are fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Breakfast with wholegrain cereals and fruits, and balanced meals throughout the day contribute to good nutrition
Minimum of 150 minutes of exercise a week, or 30 minutes daily - While strengthening the body, exercise lowers stress and is a defence against it. Regular moderate exercise is better than occasional heavy workouts.
Interact with others for at least 10 minutes a day - Talking stimulates the brain, enhances memory and speeds up the brain.
Acquire a new skill or hobby - keeps the brain active and healthy. Do what you like. If you are unable to find what you like, explore. If you are unable to like anything, talk to a mental health professional.
Mental Workout - Games requiring a combination of memory, decision-making and strategising maintain brain activity. They also help prevent dementia.
Help others - it is helpful to us. While taking focus away from ourselves, it helps us feel more positive and less helpless.
Learn to manage stress - Make a list of goals, tasks and prioritise. Break them down into smaller tasks and finish them little by little. Problems may be opportunities to get better.
Do not use alcohol, cigarettes and drugs - emotional problems are handled by tackling them, not masking them. Seek help from family and friends or get professional help.
Laughter is the best medicine - Laugh and have fun whenever you can. Humour activates the reward and pleasure centres in the brain, releasing some happy chemicals.
2 Simple Tips for Mental Wellness
Simple tips for improving mental wellness are just to breathe and to be mindful.
1. Being mindful
This means being attentive to the present moment. Whether it is the environment, your body, or your thoughts and feelings, being mindful gives us a more accurate picture of the world.
With more perspectives, you understand yourself deeper and enjoy life more.
The reason why various perspectives are important is - good decisions are rarely made with minimal information. Nobody knows everything.
2. Breathing exercises
Calming, and can do anywhere
Make yourself as comfortable as possible
Breathe in deeply and gently over a few seconds and breathe out
You may wish to try the box breathing method
Activities for Mental Wellness
Squeeze a stress ball. Affordable and easy to buy or make.
Exercise like stretching, walking, jogging and running, aerobics, swimming, biking, playing sports, hiking, rock climbing
Meditation, follow guided meditation on Youtube or the like. May be risky to do by yourself.
Pet a dog, volunteer at dog charities, or even animal charities.
Planting or Gardening
Explore the outdoors, soak in the sunlight
Positive affirmations; there are Youtube videos for this
Gratitude list; perhaps a 30-day gratitude challenge where you write down what you are grateful for at the end of the day
Get therapy, or read about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Almost anyone can benefit from therapy. A professional therapy provider can help to identify blindspots, gain new perspectives, be accountable, and overcome life challenges with help.
Massage; you can massage yourself too
Read widely to gain more perspectives; learn about the human body and mind.
What are the 5 Signs of Mental Health?
1. Excessive paranoia, worry, or anxiety
Hopelessness and Overwhelm
Avoidance as coping strategy - a pattern of avoidance, rather than procrastination, stress or lack of interest
Inability to function in day-to-day life
Paranoia of weight gain or excessive concern with appearance
Unable to comprehend reality - delusions or hallucinations; experience and sense of things that do not exist objectively
2. Long-lasting sadness or irritability that is intense
Lack of Emotions
Unable to notice changes in personal feelings, behaviour, or personality
Perfectionism - towards oneself and others. Mental Illnesses can distort the perception of self, others, and the environment. An e.g. is high unrealistic expectations of oneself.
3. Extreme changes in moods
Uncontrollable bursts of energy, ‘highs’, or euphoria.
Change in personality
Constant fatigue - inability to concentrate and learn
Physical pain, in multiple areas of the body and unexplained
Lack of self-care
4. Social withdrawal
Difficulty understanding and relating to others
Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping pattern
Lack of appetite or overeating
Possible substance abuse
Difficulty falling asleep, disrupted sleep, or oversleeping
What is Mental Illness?
Mental Illness is a health condition that distorts a person’s thinking, feelings, behaviour, or all three. The mentally ill person finds it difficult and distressing to function. Just like any other illness, the severity lies on a spectrum from mild to severe.  The frequency of episodes may also be different. Not all brain disorders are mental disorders, but the lines are blurring.
It is believed that mental illnesses arise from problems within the communication system of the brain.
Mental Illness is diagnosed by qualified mental health professionals. Evaluating symptoms, doctors will narrow down likely causes. Using the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which lists symptoms for mental illnesses, a person is then diagnosed or not diagnosed. A long observation may be required.
It is extremely important to know that professionals may make mistakes in your diagnosis. It is preferable to get the second opinions of various mental health professionals. 
Can You Overcome Mental Illness Without Medication?
Most mental illnesses cannot be cured by medication or psychotherapy, but symptoms can be minimised.  Pharmacotherapy can be a difficult process but it has to be an experiment. Medication may offer faster relief.  It can be an option, but it is not necessary to force it.
Why is Mental Health so Expensive?
Mental Health is expensive due to the limited number of professionals. As of 2020, there are only 4.4 psychiatrists and 8.3 psychologists for every 100,000 Singaporeans.
Medical Insurance for mental health is insufficient, in terms of coverage and claim limits. This is true globally. 
Treatment can also be expensive depending on the resources required. Novel treatments like Esketamine are more expensive. 
Mental Wellness Resources
Both for yourself and others. If you don’t like the hotline agent that you are talking to, please feel free to tell them that they are not helping and to request for another agent. It is not necessary to only call if you are suicidal, but even if you need someone to talk to. 
If you are feeling overwhelmed, Mindline.sg asks you step-by-step questions to narrow down and identify what you are feeling and what to do. It even has the Chatbot Wysa that can help you make feel heard.
A Helpbot, for stress and anxiety, comes from Beyond the Label Initiative. Her name is BELLE. The Helpbot can only guide you to resources by asking questions.
Samaritans of Singapore
National Care Hotline:
1800 202 6868
Mon – Sun: 8am – 8pm
SAMH Toll-Free Helpline
1800 283 7019
AIC Hotline (For ageing, caregiving and mental health related support)
1800 650 6060
Mon – Sun:
8.30am – 8.30pm
Care Corner Counselling Hotline (Mandarin)
1800 353 5800
Mon – Sun: 10am – 10pm
For hotlines regarding counselling support for adults, youths and children, including for caregivers and parents, support for family violence, seniors, persons with dementia, and struggling with addiction, and more resources, visit StayPrepared’s list of hotlines.
Here is another list of helplines for mental wellness, marital and parenting issues, violence and abuse.
Youths, 12-25, can contact limitless.sg whose helpline allows phone, test, or Whatsapp.
If you don’t like the hotline agent that you are talking to, please feel free to tell them that they are not helping and to request for another agent.
Resources and Platforms
imOkru, a mental health app
Temasek Foundation’s StayPrepared.SG
What are the Types of Mental Wellness Professionals in Singapore?
Many types that are non-clinical, E.g. Meditation, Yoga, Sound Therapy, Animal-Assisted Learning (dogs, cats, horses)
Counsellor (including financial counselling)
Psychiatrist (Only Psychiatrists are Medical Doctors and only they can prescribe medication/pharmacotherapy)
Where Can I Find Mental Wellness Professionals in Singapore?
You can find mental wellness professionals in a clinic, studio, or doing freelance.
The following tables only include agencies, clinics, or hospitals with mental health professionals.
Government-funded Community Mental Health Agencies
Block 5 Upper Boon Keng Road #02-15 Singapore 380005
Block 208 Serangoon Central, #01-238, Singapore 550208
Block 223D, Compassvale Walk,
#01-673, Singapore 544223
Government Hospitals with Psychological Medicine Departments
Subsidised by CHAS. You can use the MOH app HealthHub to make appointments and find more information.
Institute of Mental Health (IMH)
Buangkok Green Medical Park
10 Buangkok View
Singapore General Hospital (SGH)
31 Third Hospital Ave, Singapore 168753
Changi General Hospital (CGH)
2 Simei Street 3, Singapore 529889
Sengkang General Hospital (SKGH)
110 Sengkang E Way, Singapore 544886
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
100 Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 229899
Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH)
1 Jurong East Street 21, Singapore 609606
Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH)
11 Jln Tan Tock Seng, Singapore 308433
National University Hospital
5 Lower Kent Ridge Rd, Singapore 119074
Private Services/Hospitals with Psychological Medicine services
How Much Do Mental Wellness Services Cost in Singapore?
Certain government-funded agencies and institutions have subsidised fees that do not exceed $100. Some are complimentary. Private professionals will cost about $100-300 depending on the clinic, service provider, experience, condition and setting. For example, Relationship Therapy services cost more and Group Therapy services will be cheaper.
Support for Individuals and Caregivers
For informal or formal Caregivers, they can access help via the Agency of Integrated Care (AIC). The hotline is listed in the previous section on Mental Health Professionals.
Also, it is important to find support groups as it can be additionally lonely. There are both online and offline support groups and counselling.
Caregiving may have to be done in a family, relationship, work, or even somewhat in a friendship. Remember that the most important thing is to provide the person you are caring for resources to help and join them at times. Your presence would be enough.
A list of caregiving resources is curated for you below.
Agency for Integrated (AIC) Dementia Caregiver Support
SG Enable Caregiver Support (financial assistance, planning, hospital support services, training courses)
Enabling Guide Informal Caregiving Support Groups
1. Why Is Mental Health So Expensive?
Mental Health is expensive due to the limited pool of professionals working in mental health, and the limited insurance coverage.
2. What is an Example of Mental Wellness?
An example of Mental Wellness is finding meaning in hardship. Thinking about hardship as an opportunity to grow, feeling optimistic, and acting to overcome the hardship.
3. What is Good Mental Wellness?
Good Mental Wellness is personal to each person as only they can give meaning to their own lives. An optimistic attitude, acceptance of oneself and others (including limitations), and a balanced and healthy lifestyle indicate good mental wellness.
Mental Wellness is much more than maintaining optimal mental health or being able to function. It is about flourishing, about living a fulfilling and meaningful life; one that you enjoy.
As a holistic approach to health from the ground, Mental Wellness helps to reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses and poor mental health. It arouses a sense of shared sense of humanity and responsibility. The increase in mental health issues is not a personal failure but rather a failure of mental wellness. Improving mental wellness requires understanding, gained from studying various perspectives. You may wish to read these articles that summarise the relevant topics:
At frankie, we make mental healthcare and wellness easy for all with just one small task a day. Head on guided wellness journeys that understand your stressors or triggers or work with our behavioural and wellness professionals - all from the comfort and privacy of your home. Sign up for our Closed BETA here.
About the Author
Faizi is a fresh marketing graduate who runs an Instagram page on Alexander the Great. His view on life is summarised by the book title, “Only Cry for the Living”, though he has not read the book. Spending much of his undergraduate years transitioning from a religious to secular life, he hopes for a better future for apostates and has given interviews to this end. For him, The Only Easy Day is not Yesterday, but Today, because Today is easier to get through than Yesterday or Tomorrow.
This editorial section solely expresses the opinion of frankie and is not endorsed nor commissioned by any external party. The list is non-exhaustive. At frankie, we believe that your best provider of medical advice is your doctor. Please consult a doctor before undergoing any treatment or procedure.
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