SINGAPORE: An electronic platform teaching community leaders and volunteers mental health first aid was launched at a mental wellness community fair on Saturday (May 20).
"This problem of mental illness will affect many people, and it is a problem that people don't like to talk about," said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who spoke at the event.
“If we want to help, we must know how to help - how to spot the problem, how to advise, how do we help those with mental illness and their family members - so this training is very important. The earlier we spot the problems, the easier it is for the person to avoid the situation from getting worse, and the easier it is for the person to enjoy their lives as they get older," Mr Tharman added.
The pilot programme aims to equip 900 community leaders and representatives in mental health first aid over the next three years.
The e-platform - named Project e-Learning Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) - was jointly launched by Temasek Foundation Cares and Changi General Hospital. It combines online modules with a face-to-face practicum, helping to shorten onsite learning from the two days its standard course currently requires to just half a day.
So far, 89 individuals from various organisations have been trained under the project, including 20 community leaders and volunteers from the Henderson-Dawson constituency.
Commenting on the course, Chairman for Temasek Foundation Cares Richard Magnus said: "We've decided to target community leaders in this particular case because they're the natural first-responders.
"They know the neighbours, they know people who are suffering from mental health, and it gives them a natural connection with them. So we want to be able to propagate that, this pedagogical model, so that members of the community are empowered themselves, in order to help the neighbour," Mr Magnus added.
The standard MHFA course, which was founded in Australia in 2000, was rolled out in Singapore in 2008. The accredited course aims to teach participants how to identify common mental illnesses, to provide initial help and to guide affected individuals to seek professional help.
Upon completion of the course, participants are certified as Mental Health First Aiders. They will then join a central registry of trained individuals who can be mobilised to provide assistance, if needed.