October 2

How to get antidepressants in Singapore


In October 2019, I got my first antidepressant. 

My psychiatrist prescribed it to me after I complained of the binge eating I was suffering with. 

But initially, I refused. I didn’t want to be artificially happy, nor did I want to be ‘hooked’ onto happy drugs. 

How to live a single life without feeling lonely
I definitely didn’t want to be artificially happy

I thought I could deal with it, without medication. 

Yet the next day, when I went to the office, I ended up raiding the entire office fridge for cakes, chocolates and cookies – anything that could help me stuff the negative feelings I felt within me. 

I realised I could be sacked for having my hand caught in the cookie jar. I could already imagine the headlines:

Worker sacked for finishing office snacks. 

All the office snacks. 

That’s when I decided to go back to the psychiatrist and take the antidepressants he offered. 

If you’re thinking of getting antidepressants, this is what you should watch out for. 

The GP might give it, but that might not help you further 

Sure, you could probably get some from the GP near your home. 

But it might not necessarily help you to feel better and to grow in your recovery. 

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If you feel like you’re clinging onto your dear life for recovery, let go.

Over and over again, research (such as this meta study) has shown that therapy, with medication works better in the long run. Having your GP prescribe you antidepressants might not be the best option. 

I’ve seen locum GPs, or those that are stand-ins at clinics. They don’t seem to be very good at mental health related concerns. They might write you a referral to the Institute of Mental Health, before asking you to make a call, and wait. 

It might be worthwhile paying for a private psychiatrist 

Whilst psychiatrists might be pricier, they would be way better. 

It’s not even a marginal improvement. It’s tons better. 

I remember walking into Dr Ko’s clinic and being struck by the sheer lack of a computer between myself and the doctor. 

He actually took notes by hand. 

No kidding. 

By hand. 

It ensures that you are best understood. 

You definitely don’t just want your psychiatrist quickly prescribing something rather than understanding you

Most initial consultations at the psychiatrist also last 40 minutes, rather than the 5 to 10 minutes your GP can afford to give you. It gives the psychiatrist time to understand you and to see what’s wrong, before trying to prescribe you a solution. 

With matters of the mind, do you actually think someone can understand you in as little as 5 minutes? 

Personally, having been a social worker myself, I don’t think so. 

It’s a lot more complex than that. 

The public psychiatrist 

Of course, there’s always the psychiatrists in public hospitals, though that would take much, much longer. 

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Rushing your recovery may not help

When I first called IMH, they needed 3 months before they could slot me in. 

At other hospitals, there might be a similar waiting time too. 

The Ministry of Health reported that the average waiting time was 34 days. You might not be able to wait that long. 

What do you do whilst waiting in the meantime?

If you’re waiting, check out other talk therapy options. They can often help you to work through your emotions, though it is no guarantee that you will immediately feel better faster. 

Here are the options I suggest. 

Family Service Centre

Quite like a GP for social services, you can walk in and get immediately seen. No need for any appointments. Just find the one located nearest to your address, and walk in. 

But the quality of counselling you get may be different, depending on the experience of the intake worker you meet. As social workers man these FSCs, they may not have a specialisation in counselling. Counselling tends to be a touch-and-go subject in social work modules, which focuses more on working with the entire system, rather than just on an individual level. 

Charities like Care Corner

Specialised counselling centres set up by the likes of Care Corner have much better experience and expertise to help. Their fees are also affordable. When I interviewed one of the therapists, she shared how the team had decades of experience, and a minimum Master’s in Counselling before they were accepted into the team. 

This is a great avenue for those who might be stuck in the waiting for a psychiatrist. 

You won’t immediately feel better

Perhaps the biggest change you need to get used to, is realising that you won’t get immediately better just because you saw a psychiatrist, or started taking antidepressants. Instead, it’s more of a journey and a slow recovery. 

Be patient with yourself. 

You’re getting there.


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