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More Singaporean firms hiring those with mental health issues

The Mindset Learning Hub wants more employers to offer office jobs to its trainees

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 12:35pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 12:37pm

By Toh Ee Ming

More employers are open to offering job opportunities to persons recovering from mental health conditions, said a train-and-place centre for such persons in Singapore.

Five months into the centre’s launch, the number of employers offering part-time and full-time jobs in sectors such as food and beverage, and cleaning has doubled from 20 to 40.

But the Mindset Learning Hub is calling on even more of Singapore’s employers to come on board and offer more administrative and office roles to challenge the perception that people with mental illnesses are suitable only for back-end or operational roles. To date, 133 people have been enrolled at the centre, of which 80 are attending training or have already done so.

Trainees can obtain Workforce Skills Qualifications certifications once they complete the required modules under SkillsFuture Singapore, in retail, environmental cleaning, and food and beverage. They are also taught soft skills such as writing resumes, how to dress for job interviews, work etiquette and recovery strategies in the workplace. Centre manager Yvonne Low said the response has been encouraging, with clients “getting more confident” and receiving good feedback from employers.

She added there are plans to expand training into the hospitality and healthcare sectors. A cafe for trainees to practise service and simple food preparation is also expected to be opened by May.

A 28-year-old participant, who wanted to be known as Raymond, has taken two cleaning modules, and is working to realise his dream of opening a cleaning company.

Raymond, who has mild depression, had to take medication that would make him drowsy. While he was lucky enough to have understanding employers in the past, he said it was still very stressful trying to keep up with his colleagues, who completed their work much faster than him.

Calling for more employers to understand depression, he said: “(Employers should) give us time to rest and to digest the workload, and time to adapt, not just in the first one or two weeks, but (it should be) ongoing.”

To help trainees learn more effectively, Ms Low said the centre provides shorter hours for training, while offering role-play activities so they can apply what they learn.

Acknowledging that it is “not realistic” for real-work employers to do so much hand-holding or to give so much leeway, Singapore Association for Mental Health executive director Tan Li Li said what the trainees need is just a little more understanding.

“Sometimes, people wear coloured lenses when they look at our clients … Someone may be sick with the flu, but (the employer) may think he doesn’t want to come to work … We want to destigmatise and educate employers that it doesn’t matter if you have a mental condition, everyone has his ups and downs, and it’s okay to take time out,” she said.

Appealing for more companies to offer job trials and internships, she said: “It will give (clients) a taste of the real working world and help them in managing their expectations.”

More firms hiring those with mental health issues