All can help create community of inclusion for mental-illness sufferers

In a survey conducted by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) among 477 people with mental health issues accessing social services, seven in 10 said they had problems living with dignity because of the attitudes and actions of others, and 55 per cent had problems joining community activities.

Social inclusion of people with mental health issues such as depression and schizophrenia and their ability to contribute meaningfully to society are key areas that need to be addressed ("Call to remove mental health query on job forms"; Sept 27, and "Raise awareness of realities mental-illness sufferers face" by Ms Sukriti Drabu; Oct 5).

For social inclusion to happen, our community must be open to understand, accept and empathise with people with mental health issues.

Media portrayal of people with mental health issues can be more balanced, seeing the person beyond the diagnosis.

These individuals will also need to take steps to gain deeper insights into their own mental health condition, develop coping mechanisms and supportive social networks, and seek medical help and treatment when necessary.

We support voluntary disclosure of mental health conditions, as it helps individuals receive support and reduces the burden of secrecy.

Some individuals live in constant fear about their mental health issue. This anxiety affects their help-seeking behaviour, and, in turn, their recovery journey.

Disclosure is a personal decision and it is important that individuals have access to information to make an appropriate decision in their own situation.

Family, friends, schoolmates and co-workers can equip themselves with knowledge and skills to provide the necessary support to them upon their disclosure.

We will continue to partner community mental health organisations to reach out to more people with mental health issues and encourage social inclusion for these individuals.

NCSS has also embarked on various initiatives to increase employment opportunities and enhance employment outcomes for these individuals.

We encourage more employers to embrace inclusive hiring practices and see individuals' potential to contribute in their areas of strength.

People with mental health issues can achieve their fullest potential and live life with dignity.

Everyone can play a part in creating a community of acceptance and inclusion to facilitate the recovery journey of people with mental health issues.

For more information on the various community support and social services available, visit our website www.ncss.gov.sg/speakup

Sim Gim Guan

Chief Executive

National Council of Social Service

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2016, with the headline 'All can help create community of inclusion for mental-illness sufferers'. Print Edition | Subscribe