Annual SEA Mental Health Forum finds partnerships, innovation, and access as key solutions to tackling positive correlation between mental illness and COVID-19

  • Mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, depression and neurological disorders are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic across Southeast Asia markets
  • Utilization of telehealth and telepsychiatry, home delivery of medications, enhanced training support on primary level and advancement of community care level, and partnerships with governments to drive mental health literacy and resiliency were among key discussion areas

SINGAPORE, Oct. 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — As Southeast Asian countries continue to battle with the second or third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects are far reaching – beyond the economy to the mental wellbeing of individuals, caregivers, families, and healthcare practitioners. 

In line with World Mental Health Day, Johnson & Johnson, in collaboration with the Philippine Psychiatric Association, hosted the fourth annual Southeast Asia Mental Health Forum, with the theme of ‘Building Capacity for Mental Health in the New Normal.’

The Forum was held virtually over two days in October and was attended by more than 500 participants, including healthcare professionals, patients, policymakers and mental health advocates from across Southeast Asia.

Countries that participated in this year’s Forum included the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Each market shared local best practices, learnings, challenges, and recommendations, in line with providing mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

J&J Philippines President and Managing Director Raghu Krishnan affirmed the Company’s commitment to strengthening mental health capacities and advancing the conversation in the country as he opened the event.

Dr. Alessandra Baldini, SEA Director for Medical Affairs of Johnson & Johnson, shared, "In this year’s Forum, we aim to foster partnerships with various stakeholders in finding sustainable methods in supporting the needs of those dealing with mental health diseases and developing future strategies beyond the pandemic."

Discussions unveiled that mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, depression and neurological disorders are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] From March to August this year, the National Center for Mental Health hotline in the Philippines saw a spike of calls on the crisis hotline with an average of 876 monthly calls, 53 of which were related to suicide. This is in comparison to the months prior to lockdown where the center received only an average of 400 monthly calls from May 2019 to February 2020.

The same was reported in Singapore, wherein their SOS hotline received an increased amount of calls between April and May 2020, 30-35% higher than the same period last year.[2]

Meanwhile, Malaysian police reported 78 suicides nationwide from the period of March 18 to June 9, 2020, 14 more cases as compared to the same period of the previous year. The Mental Health Department of Thailand also released figures showing a 22% increase in number of suicides in the first half of 2020, in comparison to the previous year.

Within March to August 2020 alone, the Indonesian Clinical Psychologists Association (IPK Indonesia) reported a total of 14,619 individuals treated, coinciding with lockdown protocols and restrictions.

In building future strategies, key themes that emerged from the forum revolved around innovations, access and partnerships. Among those shared were:

  • The utilization of telehealth and telepsychiatry to minimize human contact while ensuring greatest patient access to mental health specialty care services more readily
  • Home delivery of medications to ensure uninterrupted provisions of psychotropic medications with longer half-life, introduction of community-based mental health at the primary care level, Tele-mentoring and coaching of primary healthcare providers is important to provide peer support and minimize burnout among our primary care providers
  • Building capabilities and training support of primary care practitioners to enable them to serve patients with mental health needs while advancing the community care model to ensure accessible and affordable mental health services
  • Emphasis on individual, family, and community resiliency and partnering with local government units and the national government, civil society, and private sector to drive mental health literacy 

As long-time advocates and experts in the field of mental health, Johnson & Johnson aims to further collaborations with local market stakeholders that share their commitment to put mental health at the forefront of health agendas across the Region and the world. 

Dr. Baldini said, "The responsibility of building capacities for mental health does not belong to just one stakeholder. We must look at it holistically and as each individual’s responsibility."

"Beyond COVID-19, we as leaders and innovators in the field of healthcare will continue to change the trajectory of health for humanity by deepening the understanding of mental health and highlighting the importance of early detection and treatment."

For the information on SEA Mental Health Forum highlights and closing remarks, please refer here.


[1] According to The impact of COVID-19 on mental, neurological and substance use services: results of a rapid assessment. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

[2] Teo, J. (2020a, August 19). Covid-19 will have a long-tail effect on mental health, experts predict. The Strati Times.

About Johnson & Johnson
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For media inquiries, please contact:

Rachel Ho
Director, Communication & Public Affairs, SEA
Johnson & Johnson

Source: Annual SEA Mental Health Forum finds partnerships, innovation, and access as key solutions to tackling positive correlation between mental illness and COVID-19