Globally, World Health Organisation (2017) estimated that 300 million people are affected by depression, 60 million with bipolar, and 21 million with schizophrenia and other psychoses, mirroring the top four most common mental illness in Singapore. Epidemiological studies worldwide have consistently reported major depressive disorder (MDD) to be among the most common psychiatric disorders, with an estimated lifetime prevalence in the range of 12% to 16% in Western communities, and much lower in Asia, ranging between 3% and 6%. MDD can be chronic or recurrent, consequently affecting and impacting individuals for many months, years or even decades. MDD is also associated with significant comorbidity, poor health and mortality. In Singapore, the Institute of Mental Health (2011) estimated 57,000 adult men and 102,000 adult women are suffering from major mood disorders. A recent study (2017) revealed that women in Singapore have a 7.2 percent lifetime prevalence of major mood disorder, compared to 4.3 percent among men.

The Institute of Mental Health conducted The Mind Matters study (2014) among adult residents aged 18-65 years in Singapore to understand “knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management or prevention”. It was found that across the five disorders (alcohol abuse, dementia, MDD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia, people tend to recognise dementia (66.3%), followed by alcohol abuse (57.1%) and MDD (55.2%). Recognition was poorer for OCD (28.7%) and schizophrenia (11.5%). Research in many countries has shown that improving community mental health literacy is important in increasing appropriate help-seeking and improving the high level of unmet needs in the treatment of mental disorders.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being. It interviewed people from 19 to 60 years old, with questions focusing on various forms of abuse including mental illness in the household to household challenges such as parental separation as well as physical and emotional neglect up to the age of 18. The ACE Study has uncovered how ACEs are strongly related to development of risk factors for diseases and well-being throughout the life course.

We may not know who is suffering in silence, but we can certainly be there for someone in need. Connecting with, and supporting one another through evidence-based art experiences is the focus of Arting Hearts.