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Written Answer by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, to PQ on Mental Healthcare for Work Permit Holders

NOTICE PAPER NO. 2123 OF 2020 FOR THE SITTING ON 5 JUNE 2020
QUESTION NO. 3637 FOR ORAL ANSWER NOT ANSWERED BY END OF QUESTION TIME

NMP: Ms Anthea Ong

To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) what mental healthcare is provided for work permit holders residing in (i) dormitories (ii) factory-converted dormitories (iii) onsite temporary quarters and (iv) other residences; (b) how are these measures communicated to (i) work permit holders and (ii) their employers; (c) how does the Ministry work with NGOs in expanding support to work permit holders for their mental health needs; (d) whether the Ministry will establish for work permit holders (i) a dedicated mental wellness hotline that funnels to the respective NGOs and (ii) ground consultation teams staffed with mental healthcare professionals.

Answer

  1. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) partners with NGOs, such as Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) and Healthserve, to meet the mental well-being needs of foreign workers living in dormitories and other forms of housing.

  2. The Migrant Workers' Centre has an existing 24 hours helpline manned by MWC staff where workers can call in for assistance on any issues, or if they just need a listening ear. In April, Healthserve launched a dedicated mental wellness hotline where workers can access important medical information and submit their requests for tele-counselling sessions. These tele-counselling sessions are conducted by more than 100 trained volunteer counsellors in the foreign workers' native languages. Since April, Healthserve's hotline has received more than 4,000 enquiries and more than 300 workers have signed up for their tele-counselling sessions. Workers who are in distress for any reason can call either the MWC or the Healthserve hotline.

  3. In addition, our FAST teams and MWC's network of 5,000 Foreign Worker Ambassadors proactively look out for residents, whom they assess may benefit from the service, and refer them to a mental health counsellor. Depending on the group size, Healthserve may tap on their pool of more than 30 volunteer Psychiatrists for a remote group counselling, or activate a counsellor for one-to-one tele-counselling session with the worker. More than 150 cases have been referred to Healthserve so far. Besides counselling services, Healthserve and MWC also provide financial assistance to help foreign workers in financial distress.

  4. To ensure dormitory residents are informed of the available support channels including the MWC and Healthserve hotlines, MOM sends out regular bulletins highlighting the help that organisations such as MWC and Healthserve can offer. Videos produced by Healthserve on upholding mental health have also been shared among the residents. At the dormitories, posters are put up to inform residents of when they should seek help and how. Additionally, all first-time non-Malaysian work permit holders are required to attend a mandatory one-day Settling-in Programme where they are taught the avenues and given the hotline numbers to seek help if they are stressed or depressed.