New charity to enable those with mental health conditions to help their peers

Ms Susan Ong, 40, used to suffer major depressive disorder and anxiety, but now she is part of a new initiative that uses peer learning and discussion to help others with mental health conditions. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE RESILIENCE COLLECTIVE

SINGAPORE - A new charity has been launched to provide peer support to people struggling with mental health issues.

The organisation - Resilience Collective (RC) - is the first to provide a platform that is powered by those who have gone through similar issues rather than just professionals.

It is supported by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), National Council of Social Service and Agency for Integrated Care.

RC board member and executive director Goh Shuet-Li said: "RC believes that persons with mental health conditions can not just cope but thrive.

"It provides a platform where persons with mental health conditions and professionals can partner to develop recovery-focused solutions and where peers can find a network of support.

"Through its community engagement initiatives, RC also raises awareness on the topic of mental health and works towards reducing stigma."

Unlike a clinical institution like the IMH that is based on the practitioner-patient relationship, RC regards peers as equal partners with healthcare professionals and uses their personal experiences as a resource when creating new programmes and initiatives.

Ms Goh added: "RC is unique in that it focuses on using co-production principles when developing content and programmes. It has a strong focus on peer participation and is also largely peer-led."

Five co-produced planning workshops have been completed under the initiative's pilot run. Two training workshops with topics such as relearning how to be sociable and integrate with society and learning how to frame their recovery journey and tell their own story in public have been held.

The third workshop on exploring recovery will be held by the end of the month.

Each workshop has 15 to 20 participants.

"Attendees welcome the safe space to share and explore their own conditions and their personal journeys, without judgment. Knowing that there are others who have been on the same path provides encouragement and hope," Ms Goh said.

The mental conditions that participants might have include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, addictions, anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ms Susan Ong, 40, used to struggle with major depressive disorder and anxiety, but she is now a peer support specialist with RC, which she joined at the start of the year.

"RC aptly provides a rich pool of shared knowledge, resources and perspectives as we tap each other's brains, responses and voices in a safe, easy, friendly and encouraging manner," she said.

"Peers are also given a role, no matter how small, to help influence the existing mental health industry so it can better understand its clients and communities."

"RC uses a ground-up initiative to interact with peers in a more personal way to find out more of what they are like and what their needs, wants and hopes are."

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