When fishmonger Li Hee Meng closed down his business, handed down from his parents, 10 years ago because it was not doing well, he sank into depression and remained unemployed for about eight years.
In 2016, he was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and was treated as an inpatient for the next two years for schizophrenia.
Last October, Mr Li was referred to the Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS) where he was trained in the cafeteria on food preparation, dish-washing and cleaning for two months. Thereafter, the centre secured him a part-time position as a kitchen helper at IMH's canteen and he worked there for six weeks.
The 52-year-old started full-time work as a store assistant at Prime supermarket two weeks ago and said he was satisfied with his new job.
He said in Mandarin: "I do shelving and stock-taking. After Chinese New Year, they will teach me how to order stocks from the suppliers."
Mr Li is one of the 50 or so people with mental health issues that have benefited from SACS' Transitional Employment and Work Integration Programme. The programme seeks to provide those enrolled with on-the-job training opportunities within the centre's internal units and social enterprises, so that they can be ready to re-enter the workforce.
The programme is one of 11 that will receive funds from the Empowering for Life Fund (ELF) this year.
The programmes are aimed at aiding those at a disadvantage, including people with disabilities and children with special needs.
The Transitional Employment and Work Integration Programme was highlighted by President Halimah Yacob in her address at the launch of the President's Challenge 2019 at the Singapore Expo yesterday.
The launch was held in conjunction with the opening of the Singapore Mental Health Conference. The two-day conference is jointly organised by IMH, the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), the Agency for Integrated Care and the Health Promotion Board (HPB).
President Halimah saidELF programmes support vulnerable groups by equipping them with the necessary skills and resources to proactively solve problems, develop resilience in overcoming life's challenges and contribute meaningfully to society.
The ELF was first set up under the President's Challenge in February last year to support programmes that empower vulnerable individuals through skills upgrading, capacity building and employment.
Madam Halimah said that ELF will fund each approved project for up to three years from this year, instead of the initial one year. She expressed the hope that the certainty of funding over a longer period of time would encourage volunteer welfare organisations to be open to trying out new approaches to support the vulnerable.
The 2016 Singapore Mental Health Study showed that one in seven adults had experienced a mood, anxiety or alcohol use disorder at some point in his lifetime and about three-quarters of these people did not seek help.
"This year, by spotlighting on mental health, I hope that we as a community are more aware of the needs of persons with mental health conditions and can better support them in their journey of recovery and reintegration.
"I hope that President's Challenge 2019 can bring about new programmes and approaches to help this group of individuals as well as their caregivers," said President Halimah.
President's Challenge 2019, which focuses on mental health, will be raising funds for 67 organisations spanning a wide range of service sectors.