Written Replies to Parliamentary Questions

Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on the Number of Prison Inmates who Have Sought Help for, or were Diagnosed as Having, Mental Health Issues in 2020, by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 05 July 2021


Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin:
 To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what is the number of prison inmates who have sought help for, or were diagnosed as having, mental health issues in 2020; and (b) how has follow-up case work by the Forensic Psychiatry Community Service and care teams of the Institute of Mental Health for released offenders been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.



1.   All inmates admitted to prison are assessed on the state of their mental health. Inmates diagnosed with mental health needs but whose condition is more stable are housed with the general inmate population and seen regularly by prison psychiatrists. They undergo a prison regime similar to that for other inmates, and benefit from mainstream rehabilitation programmes, and work and education opportunities.

2.   Inmates who are diagnosed to require specialised treatment are housed in the Psychiatric Housing Unit (PHU) in Changi Prison Complex. The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) engages the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to conduct psychiatric treatment programmes, including therapy and counselling, for the inmates at the PHU. A multi-disciplinary team comprising prison officers, psychiatrists, psychologists and occupational therapists work together to manage the inmates in the PHU.

3.   About 12% of inmates in our prisons as at 31 Dec 2020 received care for mental health needs, with the most common being insomnia, adjustment disorder and depressive episodes. Most of these inmates’ conditions are stable and do not require specialised treatment at the PHU.

4.   Depending on the inmate’s mental condition and needs, SPS may make referrals to IMH or polyclinics for follow-up care after the inmate’s release from prison. Inmates whose conditions are severe enough to warrant immediate follow-up are sent directly to IMH for further assessment on the day of their release.

5.   The Forensic Psychiatry Community Service (FPCS) was set up by IMH in 2012 to provide continued treatment and services to ex-offenders with mental health needs. After the FPCS programme, if required, they would either be referred to IMH’s regional care teams for specialist follow-up in the community, or to regional general hospitals or general practitioners of their choice.

6.   Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FPCS and IMH’s regional care teams have shifted to using tele-consultation to deliver their services, such as video conferencing, text-messaging, and telephone calls.

7.   SPS and IMH will continue to work closely to support inmates and ex-offenders with mental health needs. IMH will also regularly review the operations of FPCS and the regional care teams so that services can continue to be provided effectively and safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.