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Mental Health and Psychiatry in Singapore: From Asylum to Community Care

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Mental Health in Asia and the Pacific

Part of the book series: International and Cultural Psychology ((ICUP))

Abstract

The history of mental health and psychiatry in the city-state of Singapore is shaped by political, economic and social developments that are both international and local. Compared to other countries in Asia and the Pacific, Singapore has been more open to external ideas and practices of mental health. On the one hand, in both the colonial and postcolonial periods, Singapore has had a diverse multicultural population, which historically comprised migrants from different parts of Asia and beyond, and which held different views of mental illness. On the other hand, the dominant model of mental health and psychiatry in the city-state is the Western one: namely the British influence in the colonial and immediate post-independence periods, and increasingly from the Second World War, the prevailing American model. Thus, the openness of Singapore to Western ideas and expertise, while beneficial in some aspects, is not without difficulty and ambivalence. The shift from asylum-based institutionalization to community psychiatry and the recognized importance of mental health are definite signs of progress. However, the continuing dominance of Western frameworks of psychiatry ignores both the rich experience of clinicians based in Singapore as well as the varied customary ways in which Singaporeans have viewed and treated mental illness. History thus provides insights not only into the social impact of a Western-centered psychiatry in Singapore. It also highlights the need for a more grounded paradigm that is appropriately attuned to local circumstances and experiences.

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Correspondence to Kah Seng Loh .

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Loh, K.S., Kua, E.H., Mahendran, R. (2017). Mental Health and Psychiatry in Singapore: From Asylum to Community Care. In: Minas, H., Lewis, M. (eds) Mental Health in Asia and the Pacific. International and Cultural Psychology. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4899-7999-5_13

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