Call for employers to care for staff's mental health

PHOTO: Call for employers to care for staff's mental health

[Above: Ms Yee Yung Jen with her mum Liong Sai Chee. Diagnosed with depression in 2008, Ms Yee draws and makes beaded handicraft to help her feel better.]

Employers here should be open to embracing the mental-health issues of their staff, especially in Singapore's fast-paced society, said Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister of State for Finance and Transport, yesterday.

This is because the stigma long associated with mental conditions may prevent working professionals from seeking help, as many worry that doing so may affect their career prospects, she added.

Mrs Teo was speaking at an event to commemorate World Mental Health Day, which is celebrated today annually.

She shared an anecdote about how her former employers helped a colleague overcome depression by engaging a psychiatrist.

She added: "We have to find ways to let our colleagues know that they need not feel ashamed. It's actually very normal for a healthy person to experience episodes of depression."

She suggested that employers bring in counsellors to give talks about stress management, or former patients to share their experiences with staff members.

Event organiser Silver Ribbon (Singapore), a non-profit advocacy group that promotes the destigmatisation of mental illnesses, said that companies are gradually becoming more open to educating their employees about mental-health issues.

It has facilitated talks in 20 to 30 companies this year, up from five companies when the group started in 2006.

Its executive director, Ms Porsche Poh, said the top concern of most working adults is work-related stress.

She advises those who have trouble sleeping or a poor appetite, which can cause disruptions to daily life, to seek help.

The group is working with the National Library Board (NLB) to launch a World Mental Health Day corner this month in 23 libraries, a place that will feature reading resources on mental health.

From January, NLB will also exhibit the art pieces of mental patients that will be on sale.

Art is not only cathartic for some mental patients, such as Ms Yee Yung Jen, 32, but it is also a source of income.

After being diagnosed with depression in 2008, Ms Yee discovered her flair for drawing and making handicraft with beads. Putting her talent to good use, she sold her works at a Silver Ribbon bazaar last week, and intends to sell her art pieces online.

She said: "Art helps me to express myself. It makes me feel better, as it keeps my mind away from negative thoughts."