In conjunction with World Mental Health Day 2017, more emphasis is placed on addressing mental health issues among employees. A recent WHO-led study was highlighted to show that mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety disorders, cost the global economy about USD1 trillion each year due to lost productivity. Zooming into measures to tackle “mental health in the workplace”—establishing a more supportive working environment—Singapore has recently announced an apprenticeship scheme, to be implemented by early 2018. Back in Malaysia, the “Psychological Wellbeing Index” will be rolled out to assess Malaysians’ mental health state.
Recent statistics for Singapore and Malaysia also suggest the pressing concern towards how mental health issues can affect workers. As indicated in the Singapore Mental Health Study 2010 – conducted by the Institute of Mental Health – about one in ten Singaporeans (12% among the general population) face a lifetime prevalence of mental disorders. In addition, based on the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 study, about 4.2 million Malaysians aged 16 years old and above (29.2%) of the population suffered from various mental health issues.
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, a member of Malaysia Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council, also patron of Malaysian Psychiatric Association, highlighted in a recent statement that, “The number is alarming as it shows an increase of 11.2%, compared to 2006. The problem involves students because the ratio of those suffering mental health problems have increased from 1:10 people in 2011 to 1:5 in 2016.”
To address mental health issues among employees, Singapore will be introducing an apprenticeship scheme in 2018 – to aid mental health peer support specialists to get back into the workforce. Meanwhile, Malaysia’ Health Ministry’s Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council welcomes the government’s effort to introduce the Malaysia Psychological Wellbeing Index – which aims to evaluate and monitor the mental health state among Malaysian workers.
Singapore: Help easing mental health workers back into the workforce
Commencing 2018, a mental health programme – an apprenticeship scheme – will be rolled out by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), to help former mental health sufferers, who are also trained to help others with similar experiences, to get back into the workforce.
The scheme, currently available only for peer support specialists, is a collaboration between the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), Workforce Singapore and social service organisations.
This scheme aims to encourage employers to hire former mental health patients, besides reaching out to people who prefer not to disclose their condition but are fit to work. Those who apply for the scheme will receive a training allowance during a work trial of up to six months. Subsequently, employers may then assess if they are suitable for the job, before moving into formal employment.
Besides the apprenticeship scheme, NCSS will engage consultants to help social service organisations better integrate peer support specialists. Peer support specialists under the programme – co-developed by Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and NCSS – will be training people who have recovered from their mental health conditions to help others like them.
They will be working closely with social workers and counsellors in various social service and healthcare institutions, apart from therapy aides in organising rehabilitation programmes, such as social outings and cooking activities.
“For Singapore to be an inclusive society, there should not be this discrimination (against former mental health sufferers). Companies also need to believe that people with mental health issues can contribute,” expressed Mr James Chan, executive director of the psychiatric services division at Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS).
Malaysia: Psychological Wellbeing Index to evaluate Malaysians’ mental health
On the other hand, Malaysia’s government will be introducing the Malaysia Psychological Wellbeing Index, proposed by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, during the launch of the Human Capital Psychology Conference much recently.
Citing the statistics, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has highlighted in a statement that the government should step up proactive efforts, as “employees spend one third of their day at the office and workplace issues are one of the main contributors of stress”. He further expressed that the Ministry of Health (MOH) can carry out psychological assessments for the index, and get the results to lay out sustainable programmes in curbing mental health issues.
To increase productivity at workplace, it is imperative to have discussions at managerial levels and promotion of good mental health in the workplace.
“There is nothing on mental health. But, we have no objections if mental health issues are raised for discussion. There is no specific mention of mental health but it does not mean you cannot bring it up as long as it affects the productivity of the employees,” echoed Lee. MIMS
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