Mobile support for those with mental illness

SINGAPORE - A new mobile support programme is being launched for people with mental illness which lets them phone counsellors who will come and visit them at home.

The Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) will roll out the scheme from the middle of this year in an effort to remove the stigma that prevents some people from seeking treatment.

Help will come from a four-man team made up of one counsellor, a former mental health patient acting as a "peer specialist", a supervisor, and a centre coordinator. The team will be expanded after a year, according to demand.

"When we get a call, we will do a home visit and find out if someone is stuck or unable to use the hospital services, or if they're not being treated at all," SAMH executive director Rajeswari K. told a media briefing on Wednesday.

"Our counsellors will do the counselling at their homes. The team will make an initial assessment and find out what needs to be done," she said. Details are still to be finalised but it is thought the service will begin to be rolled out from central Singapore, where most of SAMH's activities are, or in Jurong where a new drop-in centre is being planned.

SAMH board member and psychiatrist Ong Say How said some mentally ill are not receiving any care anywhere. They may also be housebound because of their chronic and debilitating conditions.

"It's sometimes very hard to persuade them to come out of their homes to seek help," said Dr Ong. "So having the mobile team brings some form of health care, or at least some preliminary assessment of their mental state, to those who for some reason cannot come to the centre for professional advice."

The Singapore Mental Health Study, published in 2011, found that more than one in 10 people here will suffer from some kind of mental illness in their lifetime. Fewer than one in three seek help.

An "emotional CPR" course will also be rolled out at the end of the year to equip people with basic skills to provide support to those who may be suffering from stress-related conditions.

SAMH revealed details of its annual charity event on Wednesday. A musical and dinner will be held at the Resorts World Convention Centre on May 3.

Tickets cost $350 a seat or $3,500 a table. E-mail or call 6315-6778 for information.

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