Call to offer 'quality jobs' to those with mental health issues

President Halimah Yacob visiting the Institute of Mental Health's Job Club, which helps those with mental health issues return to the workforce, yesterday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
President Halimah Yacob visiting the Institute of Mental Health's Job Club, which helps those with mental health issues return to the workforce, yesterday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

President says many patients are very well-qualified and need better jobs

President Halimah Yacob yesterday urged more employers to step up and offer "quality jobs" to those with mental health issues.

She said: "We see there's a lot of work (for them) in the back-end and front-line jobs like food and beverage, housekeeping or cleaning, but I hope there will be greater quality jobs available to them.

"There are a lot of people suffering from mental health issues who are very well-qualified and need better jobs."

She was speaking during a visit to Job Club, a branch of the Institute of Mental Health's (IMH) occupational therapy department, which helps those with mental health issues return to the workforce, thereby aiding in their recovery process.

Mental health is the focus of President's Challenge 2019, an annual community outreach and fund-raising campaign, and Madam Halimah said yesterday the main focus should be on encouraging greater job opportunities for persons with mental health issues.

She praised the Job Club, which was set up in 2008, noting that some of the people it has helped have stayed with the same employer for more than 10 years, proving that the scheme was sustainable.

Besides employers, though, co-workers also play a critical role. The President pointed to a 2017 National Council of Social Service survey which found that 50 per cent of workers were not comfortable working with such people.

Madam Halimah said there was a lot of work to be done in this area.

 
 
 
 

She said: "I think there's a lot of misunderstanding, misinformation, ignorance about the conditions of people with mental health issues in their ability to work peacefully."

Madam Halimah also said it was "absolutely critical" to have more support at the community level for those with mental health issues.

Mr Jeffery Tan, group general counsel for Jardine Cycle & Carriage and chief executive officer of Mindset Care, echoed the President's view.

Mindset is a charity organisation that sources for job opportunities for recovering mental health patients.

"All of us, if we're honest with ourselves, have struggled with mental health at some point in our lives even if we're not diagnosed with anything. So we hope the whole ecosystem of the workforce can be more compassionate towards those who were," said Mr Tan.

IMH outpatient Abel Goh, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1998 when he was 16, is among those helped by the Job Club. The 37-year-old has been working in F&B for the last four years.

Mr Goh said that the club played a big role in helping to find a suitable job for him, and regularly checks to see if he is coping well.

He is also grateful towards his employer who has tailored his job and working hours to meet his needs.

"It's not that I cannot do a job; it's just that I'm still learning," he said.


Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2019, with the headline 'Call to offer 'quality jobs' to those with mental health issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe