With support, no issue hiring those with mental illness

We acknowledge that it may not be straightforward to hire persons with mental health issues (PMHIs), especially those who have suffered cognitive decline because of their conditions ("Not so simple to hire those with mental illness" by Mr Sum Siew Kee; July 14).

However, the difficulty can be overcome if employers make some effort and receive support.

There is a growing number of employers who have taken the step to hire PMHIs, and did so successfully.

The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) runs Job Club, a service that prepares PMHIs for employment and supports them in job placements.

Job Club also works closely with employers to help them support the individual so that he may achieve his best at work.

To date, Job Club has over 100 employers on board across the retail, food and beverage, administrative and cleaning industries.

Many of the employers have successfully integrated PMHIs into their workforce.

Likewise, the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and the Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS) have support programmes for employers and PMHIs.

The SAMH has also been working with various partners to provide Workforce Skills Qualifications courses for their beneficiaries.

The focus is to enhance the employability of PMHIs through training and vocational rehabilitation, to meet the hiring needs of employers.

The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) plays an active role in reintegrating PMHIs into the community through programmes like Project Hire (Help Integrate Recovering Persons With Mental Health Issues Through Employment).

Project Hire organises employment forums to raise awareness on the employability of PMHIs, and work with employers to co-create employment initiatives to enhance job readiness in hiring, engaging and retaining PMHIs.

NCSS strives to strengthen the support networks for employers and PMHIs through a tripartite partnership with the government agencies, corporates and the community.

Preliminary findings from an SAMH qualitative research study showed that the employers of PMHIs felt they were not any different from other employees.

Most of the employers did not consider relapse a major issue, and all were willing to rehire an employee who has stabilised after a relapse.

At Job Club, SAMH and SACS, vocational specialists work with employers to implement strategies such as breaking down work tasks so that persons recovering from mental illness get to be employed without compromising business bottom lines.

Many of these employers have, in fact, found PMHIs to be loyal and valuable hires.

Gaining a better understanding of mental health issues and overcoming stigma is something we all can do.

We hope employers and employees will welcome PMHIs into the workforce, to build a more inclusive workplace and society.

Daniel Fung (Adjunct Associate Professor)
Chairman Medical Board,
Institute of Mental Health

Tina Hung (Ms)
Deputy CEO, Group Director, Service Planning and Development, and Group Director, Advocacy and Membership, National Council of Social Service

Arthur Chern (Dr)
Group CEO, Singapore Anglican Community Services and St Andrew's Mission Hospital

Tan Li Li (Ms)
Executive Director, Singapore Association for Mental Health

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'With support, no issue hiring those with mental illness'. Print Edition | Subscribe