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Lived experience perspectives of factors that influence mental health recovery in Singapore

By January 17, 2023Spartans Mind
Mental Recovery

A recent study in Singapore has looked at how people recover from mental health setbacks (Kuek, Raeburn, Chow, & Wand, 2022). There is much research in the country on understanding mental health and information on the ability to diagnose mental health issues. However, the road back to recovery is far less understood. 

With this in mind, a review of the study is timely. Until recently, research investigating personal recovery is primarily from western countries (Leamy et al., 2011), with only a handful of studies published in the 2000s from Asian settings, primarily applying western conceptualisations of personal recovery.

I have uplifted directly from the recent study to provide a summary of key findings; plagiarism noted! The piece concludes by looking at how Spartans address many vital mental health needs for recovery.


Social Support for Mental Recovery

“ Nearly all participants identified the invaluable contribution and healing properties of social support from a variety of sources such as friends, family members, significant others and even colleagues at work in some cases. These important avenues provided a source of comfort, feelings of safety, encouragement, opportunities to talk through their challenges and other more pragmatic actions (e.g. helping them take a bath, etc.).

However, when social support was not present or considered unhelpful, there was a detrimental impact on the recovery of participants. Specifically, participants shared several negative experiences of family-related instances which contributed to the exacerbation of their mental health challenges”.


Affordability of Mental Recovery Interventions

“While formal mental health professional services were viewed to be important during the recovery process, participants also shared how it could be challenging to find the right type of support. Affordability of these services was one of the main concerns of participants”.


Locating Mental Recovery Interventions

“Another concern raised was the challenge of knowing where to find various mental health professionals where participants shared how difficult it was for them to navigate the mental health system”. 


Personalized Coping Strategies for Mental Recovery

“Participants shared a wide variety of different personalised coping strategies used to manage such as adopting techniques they learned in therapy, engaging in hobbies and finding new, enjoyable experiences”. 


Misperception of what mental health issues are in Singapore

“Some unique societal factors that influenced the recovery process that participants shared were the highly stressful Singaporean educational system, general acceptance and understanding of mental health issues and stigma and the comparison-oriented culture.

However, what was also apparent was the potential for negative impact should these relationships become soured. In some instances, family, a known protective factor of mental health conditions, perpetuated negative experiences. In Singapore, living with one’s family as an adult, even after marriage, is often less a function of choice and more a necessity given the high cost of living and other societal norms where there exists an expectation for a person to look after their parents as they age.

This need was due to the many societal influences that shaped recovery, such as the high paced and comparison-oriented culture in Singapore. Coupled with prevalent and stigmatising attitudes towards people with mental health conditions documented in other Singaporean studies (Tan et al., 2020; Yuan et al., 2016), mental health recovery became more challenging for participants. 

Consequently, the lack of knowledge about various available mental health services and their costs could make help-seeking challenging and prevent people from doing so, negatively impacting their recovery”.


Personalized Mental Recovery Strategies

“However, participants in our study also recognised that while help-seeking was necessary, the many personalised strategies they used to support themselves were central to their recovery. In some instances, it could be adopting what they learned in therapy, while in others, it could be reconciling with their innate personalities and learning how to move forward. These ideas echo the type of personal responsibility often espoused in personal recovery literature but should also be considered within the context of a broader societal view”. 


How Spartans aims to close the gap

At Spartans, a core value of our gyms is the concept of an inclusive community. We create an environment where people can come and are accepted. Spartans becomes the social support, an indirect lifeline for those going through difficult times. 

Rather than paying for individual sessions, members are encouraged to use the gym as much as possible. There are set times for classes and opportunities for self-paced training. As such, boxing at Spartans is a highly affordable psychotherapeutic intervention. 

Our coaches and GMs have basic instruction in mental first aid. The training includes understanding mental health conditions and what to look for if someone may be currently experiencing mental health issues when entering the gym. As a result, there is no stigma with mental health in gyms, quite the contrary. Coaches understand mental health issues and the road to recovery.

Spartans becomes part of a personalised strategy to cope with mental health issues. This blog series well-documented the benefits of physical fitness for mental health. Spartans becomes the hobby, the new interest, for the person working through mental health issues.

Finally, with gyms across Singapore, finding a gym close to the person’s place of residence is no issue. Access to exercise as part of a road to recovery is not hindered by location.

Spartans boxing club aims to address the factors influencing mental health recovery in Singapore directly. Our dedication to mental health is second-to-none in the fitness field. We have designed our repair programme directly to address the needs of those potentially suffering from mental health issues. Spartans is a suitable partner to any psychological intervention and one that may indeed make up for deficiencies in other treatment options.



Leamy, M., Bird, V., Le Boutillier, C., Williams, J. and Slade, M. (2011), “Conceptual framework for

personal recovery in mental health: systematic review and narrative synthesis”, British Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 199 No. 6, pp. 445-452.

Kuek, J. H. L., Raeburn, T., Chow, M. Y. Z., & Wand, T. (2022). Lived experience perspectives of factors that 

influence mental health recovery in Singapore: a thematic analysis. Mental Health and Social Inclusion, (ahead-of-print).

Tan, G.T.H., Shahwan, S., Goh, C.M.J., Ong, W.J., Wei, K.C., Verma, S.K., Chong, S.A. and

Subramaniam, M. (2020), “Mental illness stigma’s reasons and determinants (MISReaD) among Singapore’s lay public – a qualitative inquiry”, BMC Psychiatry, Vol. 20 No. 1, p. 422.

Yuan, Q., Abdin, E., Picco, L., Vaingankar, J.A., Shahwan, S., Jeyagurunathan, A., Sagayadevan, V.,

Shafie, S., Tay, J., Chong, S.A. and Subramaniam, M. (2016), “Attitudes to mental illness and its demographic correlates among general population in Singapore”, PlosOne, Vol. 11No. 11, p. e0167297.