Having been through an episode of severe anxiety when he was younger, the recently-appointed Executive Director of Clarity Singapore Joachim Toh is passionate about advocating for mental health awareness. In fact, his passion aligns with Clarity’s mission to support persons with mental health conditions through therapy, acceptance and recovery so they can lead meaningful lives.
The 56-year-old who has a wealth of experience in finance and investments, served on the board of Caritas — the official social and community arm of the Catholic Church — and other non-profit organisations prior to his current appointment. We chatted with Joachim to find out his goals for Clarity and more.
You came from an investment background, with your most recent role being at Nanyang Technological University. Why did you decide to switch to Community Care?
After more than 30 years in the finance and investment sector, there were several factors that prompted my decision to move into the Social Service/Community Care sector. One of the more important factors was the influence of the people that I worked with as a volunteer in Caritas (the social mission arm of the Catholic Church).
I started volunteering at Caritas Singapore more than a decade ago with the intention to understand the social service sector better. I was on different committees and on the Board of Caritas. During that time, I had the opportunity to interact with the volunteers and staff at Caritas and from the different member organisations. Their expression of passion and joy tipped the scale in my decision to take a more hands-on leadership role in the Social Service sector. I also felt that it was the “right” time in my life.
Talking to family members, and friends who have made the switch, as well as praying for guidance were also contributing factors.
From an investment and risk management perspective, how would you describe the current Community Care landscape?
From my experience so far (albeit still limited), I observe that agencies like Agency for Integrated Care have been providing education and support required for Community Care partners to enhance their capabilities in governance and risk management. With regards to investment of reserves, I think this is currently very challenging given the low interest rate environment. Many of the organisations may not have expertise in making investment decisions (beyond fixed deposits) and to select an efficient structure to do it. Organisations need to first and foremost have a well-defined investment objective and policy statement.
What is one goal you hope to achieve in your new role?
Clarity’s mission is to help persons with mental health issues live meaningful lives through support, therapy, acceptance and recovery. We would also facilitate their reintegration into the community. This will be my goal. To continue to do this well, retaining of talent and providing my colleagues with a good work environment is important. Therefore, I hope to use technology to improve work processes so as give my colleagues opportunities to upskill, to explore incorporating technology into our intervention sessions, to better collect and analyse data to assist us in improving our service levels and to work with partners to identify gaps in mental health community care space that we could assist with.
What is one cause you’re passionate about?
I was lucky that the Clarity Board selected me as their Executive Director. I am passionate about mental health. I may be able to better emphasise with persons with mental health issues because when I first entered the workforce many years back, I suffered for a period with severe anxiety. I want to encourage people who are at the lower end of their mental well-being to seek help early, to further reduce the stigma and be able to talk about their issues with friends.