Singapore

New scheme for mental health peer support specialists

People with mental health issues and 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 start of next year, provides them with an allowance during a six-month work trial and is a collaboration among the National Council of Social Services (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.

STRENGTHS

"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.

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 they can also provide support to 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 will complete their training this month.

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

Besides the apprenticeship scheme, 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 - which raise awareness of mental health, 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.

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