Study on, as stressed maids turn suicidal

At least three maids who have attempted suicide - two by cutting their wrists and the third by swallowing a bottle of diabetes medication which caused her to go into a coma - have knocked on the door of Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) for help.

To gain a better understanding of the mental health of domestic workers here, the civil-society group is studying the mental stresses faced by 400 maids here.

Home's chief, Ms Bridget Tan, said that the group hopes to use the findings to recommend changes in government policies, laws and regulations to better protect the mental well-being of such workers.

The study began in November and was prompted by growing concern over the current situation.

While such extreme cases of attempted suicide are fortunately few and far between, Ms Tan said that complaints of homesickness and verbal abuses from employers have remained common over the years.

"(These) cause the women to become dispirited and unable to cope with daily chores," she said.

Eight out of 10 maids who approach Home for help come with stress-related problems.

The study, which consists of 104 survey questions, is being conducted by volunteers.

It touches on topics such as working conditions and employer and family relationships. The study also attempts to discern whether one might be displaying symptoms associated with poor mental health.

The organisation has been reaching out to domestic workers by distributing fliers at popular congregation points, as well as at its events and its school.

It aims to complete the study by March.

Maids with mental-health issues have made the headlines in the past.

In 2005, a Filipino maid killed a fellow maid who owed her $2,000, later dumping her body parts at Orchard MRT station and MacRitchie Reservoir. She was later found to be mentally unsound at the time of the killing.

In that same year, an Indonesian maid - later diagnosed as moderately depressed - shoved her employer out of a window after she was chided, killing the woman.

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