SINGAPORE - Employers, drop your prejudices and stop discriminating against people with mental health conditions. That was a call made by Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob on Saturday (Oct 8).
Speaking on the sidelines of a mass walk at Orchard Road aimed at raising awareness about the importance of mental health, Madam Halimah urged employers to give people with mental health conditions a chance at employment.
She said that getting hired is an important step in the road towards recovery for such people as it will help them find a "meaningful purpose" and enable them to take care of their own needs.
"In addition, we must also have a support system at work where human resource practices can support people with mental illness so that they can be productive," she said.
The mass walk, which also sought to eradicate the stigmatisation people with mental health conditions face, was co-organised by 15 community mental health partners such as the Caregivers Alliance. The walk was also part of efforts to commemorate World Mental Health Day on Monday (Oct 10).
Madam Halimah was joined by more than 1,200 participants at the "Walk with Us, Stamp out Stigma" event. Among them was Ms Winnie Kong, 28, a sales assistant at a thrift shop, who suffers from borderline personality disorder.
Ms Kong said she had struggled to find employment for sometime and was rejected by numerous employers for positions in administration and sales. "When they see that you have this illness, they will turn you down. They think that we are violent but this is not true for most cases. I think we should be given a chance."
The Agency for Integrated Care, one of the organisers of the event, said that more than 50,000 residents have been reached through its various mental health awareness activities under its Community Mental Health Masterplan. It added that community mental health teams and networks have supported about 20,000 cases of people who may be at risk or have mental health issues.
Madam Halimah said that she is also concerned about young people and elderly.
Citing student suicides, she noted that the young face "tremendous pressure" from the moment they enter primary school all the way till university. She said: "I think we do a lot in terms of early intervention programmes but we also need to provide support to our students in university."
On the elderly, she said as the country ages rapidly, the need for the community to band together to show them support and render aid, increases.