Covid-19 extra difficult for those with mental health issues, peer support crucial: President Halimah

President Halimah Yacob visited PSALT Care and officiated the opening of its activity hub, Betsy’s Place, on Sept 11, 2020. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Covid-19 has been a stressful period for many, but it is even more difficult for those with mental health issues, said President Halimah Yacob on Friday (Sept 11).

She was speaking at the opening of a new activity hub at Psalt Care, a charity dedicated to helping those with mental health and addiction challenges.

Madam Halimah also said that siting care for those with mental health challenges in the community, as Psalt Care has done, is crucial.

"We don't want to have everyone with mental health challenges going to institutional care. I think that's not desirable, not good for the individual or society," she said.

Psalt Care, which was established in 2014, is one of the social service agencies supported by the President's Challenge.

It supports its clients with peer-led support group meetings which are facilitated by formally trained, volunteer peer support specialists.

There are currently about 180 people who use Psalt Care's services.

Psalt Care executive director Jackie Tay said the new activity hub in Jalan Lepas in Hougang is meant to be a "place for peers by peers", where those seeking to recover from mental health conditions can find support from others with similar conditions, as well as "a quiet, short-term respite space in times of heightened stress".

The hub is called Betsy's Place in honour of the late Betsy Winslow, who was an avid supporter of social causes and mother of Psalt Care's founding director, Dr Munidasa Winslow.

Mr Tay said he hoped more such places would be set up across Singapore in the future.

Noting that those with mental health issues need additional support and encouragement, Madam Halimah highlighted the importance of peer support programmes, such as those run by Psalt Care, in helping them along their journey.

Psalt Care's programmes include regular support meetings, workshops and counselling.

"If you were to tell someone with mental health issues to do this or that, or advise them, it is not as effective as peers themselves doing it because (they) have gone through the same experience , and are either in the process of recovery or have recovered," said Madam Halimah.

She added that many of the beneficiaries, clients and peers told her that Psalt Care had become a safe space for them, and like a second home.

Mr Tay said: "Because of their courage and resilience borne out of the immense challenges they have overcome in their own lived experiences, (peers) hold a unique capacity to support fellow peers in their recovery journey which a non-peer could not do with as much empathy."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.