Peer-support programme for people with mental health conditions to be piloted

Dr Chua Hong Choon, chief executive of IMH.
Dr Chua Hong Choon, chief executive of IMH.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A peer-support programme for people with mental health conditions is being developed by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and the National Council of Social Service.

It will allow people who have recovered from their mental health conditions to help those currently afflicted by them by leveraging on their experiences.

Dr Chua Hong Choon, chief executive of IMH, said peer-support has always existed, but only on a voluntary basis.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Singapore Mental Health Conference on Friday (May 27), Dr Chua said it is time to step up such services by creating a structured programme where people who have recovered from mental illness are trained to be a "peer support specialist", which will be a full-time job.

"This benefits someone who has lived through the experience and wants to use it to help others," he said.

He said the IMH hopes to pilot the programme, in in-patient and out-patient settings, by the end of the year.

Separately, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) said doctors at polyclinics are now also able to diagnose and manage mental health patients.

The first to provide such services are Ang Mo Kio, Woodlands and Jurong polyclinics under the National Healthcare Group. Singhealth polyclinics will join the programme later this year.

The AIC added that its Mental Health GP-partnership programme, where general practitioners (GP) are roped in to diagnose and manage mental health patients in the community, has supported and cared for more than 1,000 patients in the community.

There are currently 122 GPs and the target is to have 150 on board by 2017, said Dr Tan Weng Mooi, chief of the mental health division at the Agency for Integrated Care.