top of page

Written by: Miranda Mulyana, Organisational Psychologist and Dr. Irena Kit Phey Ling, Counselling Psychologist

Although the current Covid-19 pandemic year has resulted in both physical health and economic crises, we are now faced with the possibility of a mental health crisis. As such, the Singapore government has convened a Covid-19 Mental Wellness task force to look into the mental health needs of Singaporeans. Some mental health needs identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its survey of 130 countries include bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear. These mental health issues are also triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones, such as increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia and anxiety. Of these issues, social isolation receives less priority. Yet, loneliness and social isolation was found by Professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad and her team as being, “twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.”

As practicing psychologists, we have found that the pandemic imposed isolation has indeed affected individuals at all levels of society - from the school age child stuck at home during the Circuit Breaker to the elderly whose routines have been disrupted. Since the end of the circuit breaker, we have encountered an increasing number of clients struggling with the impact of social isolation. For example, some of our clients are anxious about returning to their workplace after months of working from home and interacting with talking heads on screen. Other clients struggle with the loss of their work communities when they lose their jobs. Yet those who choose to seek help are probably a mere fraction of those who are struggling. Many find it far easier to avoid talking about how their isolation and loneliness is troubling them, and choose to get on with life when there are more pressing issues at hand. However, when the source of their pain is not identified, and no action is taken to relearn how to think about, react to and regain control of their lives, they run the risk of growing more deep-seated roots of discontent and disengagement.

It is therefore important to encourage mental health help-seeking behaviours. For example, some employers have done well by engaging Employee Assistance Program providers to give mental health support to their employees. Even if companies or individuals do not have the financial resources to engage private professional mental health services, they could still approach counselling centres run by social service organisations or our autonomous universities, for subsidised professional services. Individuals who are uncomfortable with the idea of having face to face sessions with therapists, could consider seeking help through online counselling portals such as

As a community, we could consider playing our part by reaching out to those in need. For example, we can reach out to friends and colleagues who appear to be struggling. We could also consider serving the less fortunate through volunteer work arranged by social service agencies or by employers. As DPM Heng noted in his speech on 21 December, “...a great workplace is also a place that inspires and supports its employees to care about others - even in difficult times”. Such activities serve dual purposes. Firstly, we are planting the seeds for social group formation by connecting members of the community with one another, and secondly, we may have the opportunity to regain a sense of purpose and achievement.

On a personal level, we can reduce the balloon of fear and worry by focusing on the actionable things that we can control. Our thoughts drive our behaviour, therefore challenging our negative thought patterns and replacing them with productive activities can help us move towards our goals. For job seekers, reconnecting with former colleagues and bosses, and tapping on networks of friends and family could be more purposeful as it helps us to move out of isolation, as we find ourselves doing something constructive to increase our employability.

Recovery from the effects of social isolation needs time, understanding and patience. If there is greater awareness on its impact on mental health, we can nurture more acceptance and reach out to those in need. With some creativity and resourcefulness, we can still find meaning during this time of reduced physical connection, and create happier, more fulfilled and connected lives, despite these difficult times.

If you or someone you know feel you may benefit from talking to a psychologist, you may email us at to schedule for a face to face or video consultation.

Recent Posts
bottom of page