V.K. SANTOSH KUMAR
Non-profit HealthServe, which launched Singapore's first 24-hour crisis helpline for migrant workers in September, has now taken the lead in training some of them to become Peer Support Leaders (PSL).
It is part of the inter-agency Project DAWN task force spearheaded by the Ministry of Manpower to boost mental health awareness and support for migrant workers.
The aim is to equip selected migrant workers with basic Psychological First Aid knowledge and skills and empower them to be the first line of support for migrant workers who may be in distress or need assistance.
Since Covid-19 hit Singapore early last year, about 300,000 migrant workers in the construction, marine and process (CMP) sectors, have been largely confined to their rooms in dormitories. They are allowed to only leave for work or visit designated recreation centres.
The prolonged movement restrictions have added to their feelings of segregation and despair. The social isolation has also given rise to mental health problems, with many experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
These are often on top of their existing challenges related to health, finance and employment.
HealthServe's 24-hour crisis helpline is a ready avenue for distressed migrant workers to reach out for assistance.
It is also open to employers and members of the public who have concerns about migrant workers' well-being.
Since January, HealthServe has received a monthly average of 200 calls for mental health support.
"Many migrant workers do not see their own mental well-being as a priority over the financial and employment-related challenges they may be facing. Often, as helplessness sets in, suicide risk increases, and that is a major cause for concern," said Mr Michael Cheah, HealthServe's executive director.
"With this 24/7 crisis helpline, we hope to provide migrant workers a safe space where they can readily reach out for support and to remind them that they matter too."
The helpline is manned by HealthServe's team of Crisis Helpline Specialists and a growing pool of Crisis Helpline Volunteers (CHVs), some of whom can speak the workers' native languages.
Since May, HealthServe has partnered the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) to train more than 100 staff and CHVs in skills such as empathetic listening, emotional support provision and suicide risk assessment and management.
However, it needs at least 150 more CHVs and about 50 more interpreters and translators, mainly Tamil and Bengali speakers, to cope with the calls for help.
A CHV will have to man the 24-hour crisis helpline on a shift basis and provide appropriate assistance and emotional support to distressed callers.
The interpreter and translator's role is to support HealthServe teams in engaging migrant workers and providing assistance to them.
HealthServe also needs research volunteers and casework coordinators.
More information on how to serve as a CHV can be found at www.healthserve.org.sg/volunteer-application.
HealthServe's 24-hour crisis helpline number is 3129 5000.
Donations to migrant workers' healthcare needs can be made at HealthServe medical services: https://www.giving.sg/healthserve-ltd/help_migrant_ workers_heal.
"Many migrant workers do not see their own mental well-being
as a priority over
the financial and employment-related challenges they may be facing. Often, as helplessness sets in, suicide risk increases, and that is a major cause for concern." - HealthServe's executive director Michael Cheah