Not so simple to hire those with mental illness

Planning becomes more difficult and monitoring costs would also rise for staff in positions of greater responsibility. On top of all that, there are also concerns about the impact on staff morale and safety.

Organisations like the Singapore Armed Forces recognise this and consequently avoid delegating too much responsibility to the mentally ill, sometimes even exempting them from national service.

Miss Lee suggests that companies work closely with the Institute of Mental Health to provide training and employment to former patients. This suggestion is already a hint that employing the mentally ill will be costly.

The patients have done nothing wrong, but companies also have their bottom lines to consider; they are not charities.

To draw the analogy of barrier-free access to buildings, if every building were mandated to give access to the physically handicapped, there would be fewer reasons to discriminate against them. Employers' hiring decisions would not depend on whether they happen to rent an office with barrier-free access.

Likewise, to help the mentally ill, one would need to train every employer and every Singaporean to be more aware of how to work with people with such conditions - similar to teaching everyone basic first aid. This is obviously much harder than building ramps and lifts in every building.

Whether this is a workable solution remains to be seen.

Sum Siew Kee


This article was first published on July 14, 2015.
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