NEARLY two-thirds of former mental health patients who took up a series of courses to boost their job skills have found work.

Private education institute Kaplan launched the scheme for beneficiaries of the Singapore Association for Mental Health two years ago, but only went public about it yesterday.

More than 40 people have passed the courses in that time, learning life skills such as working in a team, managing stress and handling job interviews – helping them to fit back into society and find employment. Of these, nearly two in three have found jobs such as cleaning or kitchen work.

Paul (not his real name), who has been living with chronic schizophrenia for 35 years, is now employed as a customer service officer at one of the association’s centres.

“I’m not afraid to fail now,” said the 58-year-old, adding that the courses had taught him how to meet challenges and solve problems better. His condition is being managed with rehabilitation and medication.

The association is a voluntary welfare organisation and registered charity that promotes mental wellness. Its services include support and care for people and families with psychiatric, psychosocial or other social or relationship problems.

The courses, which are held once a year, are based on current ones run by Kaplan but are tailored for former mental health patients.

They typically last six days and are fully subsidised by the Workforce Development Agency.

The emphasis is on learning through interaction with others, such as role-playing in situations that could be encountered in a work environment.

Beneficiaries of the association are referred by the Institute of Mental Health, hospitals, grassroots organisations. Family service centres, schools and volunteer welfare groups.

Ms Julia Yeo, deputy head of clinical services at the association’s activity hub at Pelangi Village, said: “Some beneficiaries have not been working for a while and they are fearful (of the work environment), so the courses help build their confidence.”

Kaplan’s executive vice-president Mr Leon Choong said: “It’s important for people to build up their dignity and find a job and purpose.”


By Kenny Chee
Source: The Straits Times, 27 February 2014 © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission. Click to view PDF