Rita Goh Blog
Depress? There is help   
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Consumers and Employment in Singapore
Can a person recovering from mental illness work? The answer is “yes. In fact, they should be encouraged to work as research has shown it helps tremendously in the recovery process. During the recovery process, work helps the patient re-adjust back to society. Having a routine and things to do helps him regain a grasp on reality. When the illness is stable, work helps to give the person a sense of reward and satisfaction – just like it does for all of us.

The reality is that recovering or recovered mental patients face much difficulties getting a job. Unfortunately, there is discrimination in the workplace in Singapore unlike the US. For example, a question commonly found in employment application forms asking whether the applicant has a history of mental illness. Let’s say, I answer ‘yes’. What do you think the chances of me being employed? Very slim, right? On the other hand, if I lied, my conscience will prick me. What do you think is the best option for people like us? How many say to lie? How many say to be truthful?

Furthermore, because of the stigma associated with mental illness, not many employers are keen to take in people with a history of the illness. They have the impression that patients with mental illness are potentially dangerous or violent, or that they behave oddly and are unable to do their jobs well. Truth is, as I mentioned earlier, people with mental illness are seldom dangerous. It is just that when a violent incident happens, it gets reported in the media and a lot of people hear of it.

Sometimes, the side effects of the medications make it difficult to recovering mental patients to work such as slurring of speech, tongue rolling and trembling hands. This is especially so with the older generation of drugs. New generation have fewer side effects but are extremely expensive –which can cost up to $1K a month which the majority of mentally ill patients cannot afford if they are not working.

On the other hand, I have come across people who were afraid to seek employment because of self-stigmatization. They are embarrassed about their illness. They are afraid their employer would not understand and might even discriminate against them. The consequences of staying at home for a prolonged period of time could be dire. The mental patient might end up withdrawing from reality and become unreasonably fearful of the outside world. For the family, the extent of their financial and emotional burden is unimaginable.
posted by Rita Goh @ 10:57 AM    
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