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Round-the-clock crisis hotline for migrant workers to be set up by SOS, HealthServe

SINGAPORE — With the Covid-19 pandemic casting a spotlight on the mental wellbeing of migrant workers here, a new crisis hotline will be set up to provide round-the-clock emotional support for them.

Round-the-clock crisis hotline for migrant workers to be set up by SOS, HealthServe

The new hotline aims to provide around-the-clock support for migrant workers suffering from feelings of anxiety, isolation and despair.

  • The helpline, to be launched in July, will be manned by HealthServe staff and volunteers
  • It will be available in English, Tamil, and eventually Bengali
  • SOS will train 20 HealthServe staff in skills such as empathetic learning, managing suicide crises and ensuring safety

 

SINGAPORE — With the Covid-19 pandemic casting a spotlight on the mental wellbeing of migrant workers here, a new crisis hotline will be set up to provide round-the-clock emotional support for them.

Non-governmental organisation HealthServe, which partnered suicide prevention centre Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), said on Friday (March 19) that the first-of-its-type helpline, which will be launched in July, will be manned by its staff and volunteers.

It will be available in English, Tamil, and eventually Bengali.

SOS and HealthServe said the pandemic had "exacerbated feelings of isolation, anxiety and despair within the migrant worker community".

SOS will train 20 HealthServe staff from April onwards in skills such as empathetic learning, managing suicide crises and ensuring safety on the hotline.

At the height of the pandemic, migrant workers were confined to their living spaces when the coronavirus infections spread widely in the migrant worker community living in dormitories.

Restrictions were eased in November, when the number of cases dipped.

Workers who test negative for Covid-19 or have demonstrated immunity after recovering from the disease were allowed to visit designated recreation centres and to go out for daily needs such as going to the barber or making remittances, subjected to getting an exit pass online.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mr Michael Cheah, the executive director of HealthServe, said: “I know that a lot of workers are returning to work and that's a wonderful thing. However, the stress of life being a migrant worker remains the same.

“They have a fear of losing their jobs, of being repatriated, of not being able to support their families, or just not being able to say goodbye to their loved ones when the time comes.”

These are some of the stressors raised by nearly 2,000 callers each month who sought help on HealthServe’s telecounselling hotline, which is available in Tamil, Bengali, Chinese and English, he said. This service operates during working hours only.

Callers range from members of the public to employers and the migrant workers themselves.

In contrast, the SOS 24-hour helpline, which provides emotional support to individuals mainly in English, saw only two calls per month.

Mr Gasper Tan, the chief executive of SOS, said the language barrier was a challenge to support the greater migrant worker population. In fact, most of the calls it received were directed to HealthServe for further assessment.

Mr Cheah said this crisis hotline will allow immediate support to be given to migrant workers in need at any time of the day, unlike its telecounselling hotline.

As it ramps up recruitment of staff and volunteers who have the language ability and empathy skills, Mr Cheah said he is looking to tap HealthServe’s 600-strong volunteer pool and gather 120 of them to help kick off operations.

This crisis hotline will join existing 24-hour hotlines provided to migrant workers by various agencies, one of them being the Migrant Workers’ Centre’s helpline at 6536 2692.

Mr Tan said the pandemic has brought to the fore the need to improve the support system provided to this community that has often been neglected.

“We are concerned about the mental wellbeing of the migrant worker population who are at risk of having suicidal ideation and behaviours as there are less support networks available to them.

“We believe that collaborations are crucial to be able to collectively support those in our community who are facing crisis, especially those who fall through the cracks and are not able to receive timely and adequate support,” he added.

Related topics

Migrant Workers SOS mental health suicide

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