It's Time to Talk about Mental Health: Recruiting & Managing Employees with Mental Health Conditions

Mr. Budihardjo, Singapore Anglican Community Services, shares how employers can help persons with mental health conditions achieve meaningful careers.

25 Jun 2024 Interviews Retrenchment Best practices

Mr. Vincent Budihardjo - Singapore Anglican Community Services

Mr. Vincent Budihardjo is the head of Integrated Employment Services and Senior Services in Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS). Since 2015, he has been journeying with persons with mental health conditions and seniors. He is passionate about helping people and believes that when we do our little part in love, it will go a long way.

Q: In the last feature, you have debunked some common myths about persons with mental health conditions and the key elements/components necessary to create inclusive workplaces. For organisations recruiting persons with mental health conditions, what are some good practices they can adopt? 

  • Provide fair opportunity when considering job applicants. Do not reject the applications made by persons with mental health conditions before assessing their employability/suitability for the job. Instead, hire on the basis of merit by focusing on the skills, experience and the ability to do the job rather than his or her mental health status.
  • Be respectful and sensitive in communications. Refrain from asking questions that are irrelevant to the job requirements in assessing an applicant’s suitability (e.g. the history and details related to the person’s mental health) or make non-job related comments during the job interview.
  • Be inclusive. For instance, organisations are encouraged to include persons with mental health conditions in the social and communal settings at the workplace, not based on his or her mental health status but on the fact that he or she is an employee of the organisation.

Q: Based on your experience working with both employers and employees, what are the common challenges faced by supervisors in managing and supporting employees with mental health conditions, and what are the ways to overcome them?

Challenge 1: Less communicative resulting in friction at the workplace.

Solution: A person with major depressive disorder may not be as expressive and communicative in relating to fellow colleagues at a workplace, and may not be able to communicate his or her challenges effectively to the supervisor. This could lead to miscommunication and affect the quality of work.

Employers can help to build fellow employees’ listening skills and create a system of accountability to promote open and effective communication at the workplace.

Challenge 2: Misalignment of job description and expectations.

Solution: It is crucial to ensure that job description and expectations are mutually agreed upon and understood. Unclear roles and expectations may lead to misunderstanding and workplace conflict, which will result in stress and unnecessary emotional exchanges.

Employers should:

  • outline the job description and expectations, and communicate them clearly to the employees.
  • conduct periodic reviews with employees on their job scope and performance to maintain relevance in the workplace and allow them to take steps to enhance their performance.

Challenge 3: Improper use of language.

Solution: To demonstrate respect and avoid labelling, use respectful language, also known as a person-first language, which emphasises on the person first and speaks about the person’s condition or disability after.  For instance, use “persons with mental health conditions” instead of “mentally ill”. We should also strive to avoid the usage of derogatory terms such as “freak” or “psycho” or statements such as “why don’t you snap out of it?”.

Improper and insensitive use of language may invoke memories of hurt and stigma suffered by the person with mental health conditions. This will cause unhappiness and misunderstanding.

Challenge 4: Displaying symptoms of mental health conditions at the workplace.

Solution: Employers may be at a loss when an employee displays symptoms of mental health conditions such as a stronger-than-expected reaction to situations.

It is important to stay calm and invite the individual to sit down at a private and quiet area, and express your concerns when he or she is ready. Employers may seek help from the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP+) service*.

*SACS offers EAP+ which promotes workplace mental health wellness through the provision of  face-to-face counselling and consultations with employees, training and equipping employees with knowledge and skills on mental health and wellness, and training and equipping supervisory team and management executives with knowledge and skills to support their employees with mental health conditions.


In case you missed it…

View part 1 of the series: What You Need to Know to Be Inclusive