For Fairuz, it's time to pay back to community

Already helping others, he plans to join scheme where recovered patients help the mentally ill

Single and living with his parents in a four-room flat, Mr Fairuz Rahim, 35, always felt like he would never amount to anything.

Diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) at the age of 15, the part-time wedding decorator managed to wrestle his demons under control but has never managed to land a full-time job.

But that could change.

On May 27, Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan- Jin announced that the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and National Council of Social Service (NCSS) are co-developing a new framework where those who have recovered from mental illnesses can use their experiences to help those currently afflicted.

The trained "peer support specialist" will be a full-time job.

While there has always been a peer-support programme conducted by the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH), paid jobs for those who completed the programme were few and far between.

From 2012 to 2014, 68 individuals completed the training course with 37 passing the exams and successfully obtaining the Peer Support Specialist certification from SAMH.

PAYING IT FORWARD

It's time for me to pay back to the community to help people like me because I understand what they are going through, that feeling of sadness and loneliness. ''

MR FAIRUZ RAHIM, on how he feels happy helping others find happiness The new and more structured programme announced by IMH and NCSS will ensure more recovered patients are roped in and possibly gain full-time employment as peer support specialists at different social organisations.

While a few of those certified went on to secure full-time jobs in different organisations, many others remained part-time volunteers.

The new and more structured programme announced by IMH and NCSS will ensure more recovered patients are roped in and possibly gain full-time employment as peer support specialists at different social organisations.

This initiative will start with IMH appointing three full-time peer specialists next month.

Mr Fairuz plans to join the new programme so that he can help others struggling with mental illnesses. "It's time for me to pay back to the community to help people like me because I understand what they are going through, that feeling of sadness and loneliness."

The bachelor has had some experience on that front.

Seeing a significant improvement in his own condition eight months after joining Club Heal, a voluntary welfare organisation that aims to reintegrate persons with mental illness into the community, Mr Fairuz started to help others in their journeys to recovery.

Under the Club's "Healing Friend" programme, he conducted pottery-making lessons for his peers. Working with clay had helped him personally.

"I like pottery-making because I'm a hands-on person to begin with. It helps me stay away from bad thoughts so my mind won't wander," he said.

The new and more structured programme announced by IMH and NCSS will ensure more recovered patients are roped in and possibly gain full-time employment as peer support specialists at different social organisations.

Mr Fairuz will benefit in two ways if he succeeds in becoming a full-time peer support specialist under the new programme.

First, he will have a more stable income compared with the irregular assignments he gets as a wedding decorator. Second, he will have an outlet through which he can channel his energy to help others battle mental illness.

"Even though I cannot talk very much, I feel good helping others feel good. It makes me happy that I have helped someone else become happy," said Mr Fairuz.

•Daniel Neo just graduated from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, NTU. This story is part of his final-year project about mental illnesses in Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2016, with the headline 'For Fairuz, it's time to pay back to community'. Print Edition | Subscribe