Launch of Psychological First Aid (PFA) Training for SGSecure Responders – Closing Remarks by Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs & Ministry of Social and Family Development

Published: 06 May 2023

Mr Steve Lee

Council Member, Singapore Red Cross and Chairman of its Information Technology Advisory Panel

Mrs Boon-Ngee Sebastian

Senior Director, Temasek Foundation

Ladies and Gentlemen

1.   Thank you for having me at this event. 

2.   I am extremely happy to be here today, with Singapore Red Cross trainers, SGSecure Cluster Leads, SGSecure Responders’ Network partners and my MHA colleagues.

3.   As Mr Lee said earlier, the pandemic over the last few years has highlighted the greater need to strengthen the level of community resilience amongst our people. Encouraging more in the community to learn psychological first aid will increase our resilience as individuals, as a community, and as a society. 

4.   In fact, even before the pandemic, the SGSecure national movement had already identified and promoted psychological first aid, as one of the key emergency preparedness skills to train our community in, and to be able to mobilise our community capability in response to a terrorist attack. 

Community Resilience to Keep SGSecure

5.   Terrorism threatens not only our physical safety but also our psychological safety. 

6.   This reminds me that warfare nowadays is not only seen in the lens of kinetic warfare, but also psychological warfare. And as you know, MINDEF has established the sixth pillar of defence: digital defence. 

7.   We would have observed that laws in recent years have been passed to protect the digital realm: POFMA; FICA. You will soon be hearing about the Online Criminal Harms Act. All these laws come together to better protect our digital space because digital space affects how we feel psychologically. 

8.   The way to attack a society or community does not necessarily have to be through the means of kinetic warfare. It can also take place through psychological warfare. 

9.   Now coming back to terrorism, we have observed that since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans have continued to fear terrorism. 

(a)   A 2017 Gallup poll reported that 60 percent of Americans feel that it is ‘very or somewhat likely’ that a terrorist attack will occur in the United States in the near future.1  

(b)   The same poll found that 38 percent of Americans are less willing to attend large-scale events and 46 percent are less willing to travel overseas due to concerns related to terrorism. 

(c)   The terrorist attack was in September 11 2001. Here, we are talking about a 2017 Gallup poll. So many years have passed, but the trauma still exists in the American society. 

(d)   So it is clear that terrorist acts, and even the threat of terrorism itself, has an adverse impact on the psychological well-being of the community.

(e)   I think the case is very clear that we need to put in place programmes to train our citizens when it comes to psychological first aid.

Why the Push for More to Be Trained in Psychological First Aid

10.   Psychological first aid is widely considered by specialists to be a comprehensive and realistic, but non-intrusive strategy when it comes to dealing with major trauma.2  

11.   One of the best practices recommended post-2013 Boston Marathon bombing was the establishment of “walk-in” disaster mental health clinics for the general public, survivors and their families.  

(a)   There was a surge in the need for disaster mental health counselling, days following the incident. 

(b)   Thousands of spectators who had witnessed the bombings, needed crisis counselling services to help them process what they had saw. 

(c)   By providing immediate support and interventions, psychological first aid helped survivors process the traumatic event, reduce distress, and promote resilience and coping.

(d)   According to the National Policing Institute in the US, the use of psychological first aid also helped to connect survivors with necessary resources, including medical care, legal services, and mental health support. 

12.   Hence, the more people trained in psychological first aid, the stronger the community psychosocial support in peacetime emergencies or crises. 

13.   Such support is an integral part of emergency response. It can help individuals and communities to heal psychological wounds, and rebuild social structures after emergencies and critical events.  

14.   Psychological first aid incorporated in our emergency preparedness programmes thus go a long way towards building a resilient people and a resilient nation.

15.   I think we can all perhaps subscribe to the view that once we have the skills, that you can actually apply them to a huge variety of situations – there does not need to be war. If you think about it, should you one day, unfortunately, be found in a situation whereby you are a First Responder at the site of a traffic accident, I think the skills that you have picked up through psychological first aid will also come in handy as well, because this is a traumatic incident, whether or not you are physically involved in the accident. Even as a bystander, those skills might come in handy. 

16.   In the SGSecure Public Perception Survey 2022, it was observed that the community was less familiar with psychological first aid than other emergency preparedness skills. For example performing CPR, operating an AED, firefighting, etc. Thus, we hope that today’s initiative can help to raise the public’s awareness on psychological first aid. 

17.   While we expand our pool of community responders numbering more than 135,000 as of April 2023 – thank you to all our partners for achieving this goal – we wish to encourage them to upskill to enhance their confidence and readiness to step forward to help others in distress when the need arises.

A Private-Public-People Partnership

18.   In order for us to further this outreach, multiply efforts, we need the support of like-minded partners. That is why we are so grateful that we have Temasek Foundation and Singapore Red Cross (SRC) – thank you for your partnership on this wonderful, meaningful and impactful initiative. 

19.   I am happy to note that with the strong partnership with SRC and Temasek Foundation for this programme, we will have in place a programme of training for 1,500 SGSecure Responders on psychological first aid over the next 3 years. 

20.   I would like to thank Temasek Foundation for the strong support for the SGSecure movement, and other Home Team initiatives, like the SCDF’s Save-a-Life initiative, over the years. 

21.   One of the collaborations was the books on emergency preparedness to students in our primary schools and Special Education schools. 

22.   Besides direct support to MHA, Temasek Foundation has also supported programmes organised by external partners, like the “Faithful Footprints” interfaith heritage programme launched by Humanity Matters since August 2019 and the “SG Cohesion & Resilience (SG CORE)” programme started in April 2021 that complemented the cohesion pillar of the SGSecure movement. 

23.   We hope to continue our collaboration with the Foundation and may this partnership grow long, meaningfully and strong.

24.   I would also like to thank our SGSecure Cluster Leads and SRN partners for your strong response onboarding this programme and reaching out to your affiliates. 

25.   We are confident it will help our partners to upskill their SGSecure Responders and mobilisers. 

26.   I understand that the training would be curated with SGSecure contents and customised with domain specific scenarios. For example, at the workplaces, places of worship, in the community amongst different segments, like amongst the youths.


27.   In conclusion, this tripartite collaboration is another milestone of the SGSecure Responders’ Network, to bring together the private, public and people sectors. 

28.   I wish the 3-year programme every success and may it continue to inspire more cross-domains partnerships for such capability building in societal resilience, and may we altogether march bravely forward, emerge stronger, to make SG secure. 

[1]   Haner, M., Sloan, M. M., Cullen, F. T., Kulig, T. C., & Jonson, C. L. (2019, June 21). Public Concern about Terrorism: Fear, Worry, and Support for Anti-Muslim Policies. Retrieved from Socius: SAGE Journals: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2378023119856825 

[2]   Alexander, D. A., & Klein, S. (2005, Dec). The psychological aspects of terrorism: from denial to hyperbole. Retrieved from National Library of Medicine (NIH): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1299349