Mental health therapy continues, thanks to technology

To allow staff to work remotely, We Care Community Services spent about $30,000 on laptops and headsets. PHOTO: WE CARE COMMUNITY SERVICES

When the circuit breaker began in April, We Care Community Services lowered its shutters at the Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub.

But thanks to technology, it managed to continue helping people recover from their addictions.

The voluntary welfare organisation swopped in-person counselling sessions for video calls on Zoom and, and its physical call centre for Amazon Connect, which allowed staff to take calls from home and connect people with counsellors.

The centre chalked up about 900 therapy hours between January and May this year - double that of the same period last year, although the increase is also due to the toll that Covid-19 has taken on people's mental health, the centre's executive director Tham Yuen Han, 59, said. She added that it has increased the frequency of their programmes.

To allow staff to work remotely, the centre spent about $30,000 on laptops and headsets for a dozen of them, and bought SIM cards for some of its beneficiaries.

The cost of equipment will be defrayed by money from The Invictus Fund, and the VCF Info-Communications Technology (ICT) Grant, which are both administered by the National Council of Social Service.

"What we've done is to think of ways to provide as much social connection as possible online. You, have to maintain physical isolation, but (you can) keep up the social connection online."

"It's a huge switch for us, but I am glad we did it," Ms Tham said of the use of tech. "We would definitely continue some of these programmes online (even when the centre reopens)," she added, noting this could also benefit people who do not live near the centre.

Still, nothing beats the "human touch", she said, noting that without walk-ins, non-tech-savvy people could find it harder to seek help.

  • People who need help can ring the hotline numbers 3165-8017 or 6547-5459

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2020, with the headline Mental health therapy continues, thanks to technology. Subscribe