Helping those with mental health issues find work

Ms Lee Ying Ying, who found out she had psychosis four years ago, is now a certified peer support specialist.
Ms Lee Ying Ying, who found out she had psychosis four years ago, is now a certified peer support specialist.PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Job scheme for peer support specialists who are trained to help others with similar issues

People with mental health issues, who are trained to help others with similar conditions, will be able to apply for an apprenticeship scheme to ease them back into the workforce.

The scheme, which starts from the beginning of next year, provides them with a training allowance during a six-month work trial and is a collaboration between the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), Workforce Singapore and social service organisations.

"We want to help these individuals fit into the job much more easily (and) with less stress," said Mr Anjan Ghosh, NCSS' director of service planning and development.

"It also allows the employer to identify their strengths and their suitability for the job before they enter a long-term job commitment."

Only those who are peer support specialists can apply for the apprenticeship scheme. These specialists have been certified under a 180-hour programme by NCSS and the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), which teaches them how to help others recovering from mental health issues. They eventually work alongside social workers and counsellors in social service and healthcare institutions.

The NCSS recommends organisations to hire peer support specialists in pairs, so that they can also provide support for each other.

The programme was piloted in February and 16 out of the 23 specialists from the first cohort are now employed at mental healthcare institutions, including IMH, the Singapore Association of Mental Health and Caregivers Alliance Limited. The second cohort of 20 people will complete their training this month.

Trainers for the programme are from the United States, where similar programmes have been run successfully over the past five to 10 years, said Mr Ghosh.

The programme has attracted people from diverse backgrounds such as Ms Lee Ying Ying, a peer support specialist in the Early Psychosis Intervention Programme.

She found out she had psychosis four years ago and sought treatment from the programme. It eventually led to her becoming a certified peer support specialist in April.

Ms Lee, 30, said: "It has helped me to recover and grow as a person in terms of empathy."

NCSS will also engage consultants to help social service organisations better integrate peer support specialists next year. The initiatives promote mental well-being and acceptance of those with mental health conditions.

More than 90,000 residents have been reached through community outreach teams by the Agency for Integrated Care - which raise awareness of mental health conditions, identify those at risk of mental illness and conduct preventive care programmes - over the past five years, said Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin yesterday at the Singapore Mental Health Conference 2017 at the Singapore Expo.

Raising public awareness of mental health conditions and coping skills, as well as providing information on where people can seek care, is necessary in building mental health resilience. "It strengthens our ability to have healthy relationships, make meaningful choices and have a good quality of life," he added.

Correction note: This story was edited to amend the spelling of National Council of Social Service. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'Helping those with mental health issues find work'. Print Edition | Subscribe