Improve job options for those with stable mental conditions

As part of the Budget debate, Mr Darryl David, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, has suggested building mental wellness centres for stressed and depressed residents.

I thank him for considering such individuals and expressing concern over their possible financial challenges.

People with mental health issues need the Government to help reduce the stigma that they face.

A study has found that one in 10 people here suffers from mental illness in his lifetime.

Often, those with mental illness find it difficult to be employed and are not able to support themselves financially.

Many of them are, in fact, physically healthy and mentally able to cope with normal jobs.

How much would it benefit society and the economy if these people were meaningfully employed?

The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and many welfare organisations do help the mentally ill find jobs, but the jobs are often manual and low-paying ones.

There are highly functional individuals with mental health issues who are capable of holding down normal and more intellectually demanding jobs.

But such job opportunities are scarce because of the stigma.

I propose that instead of establishing mental wellness centres for those with only mild mental conditions, we include individuals with more severe conditions, such as schizophrenia, but whose conditions have stabilised and who have been certified by their psychiatrists to be fit to work.

We should make it known to the public that those who visit such centres are mentally well enough to be gainfully employed.

It may even give employers more confidence to hire them if the centres accept only those with stable conditions.

In doing this, a line between unstable and stable conditions can be drawn.

Also, there is less of a stigma to visit such centres, compared with the IMH.

Individuals are less likely to hide their history of such visits from employers.

Employers can also be assured that individuals who visit the centres are able to handle work of a certain level.

This will greatly destigmatise mental health issues and encourage individuals with mental health conditions to seek employment.

Chiang Mei Yee (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'Improve job options for those with stable mental conditions'. Print Edition | Subscribe