Institute of Mental Health Ward Volunteering
NTU Psychology Society recently organized a ward volunteering visit to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) on Saturday, 04 March 2017, commencing at 0900 at the Institute of Mental Health, and ending at 1145. The visit was facilitated by Mdm Catherine Chua and Mr Johnathan Kwek as well as other ward leaders under the Matchsticks of IMH. A maximum number of 30 was imposed on the size of the group. While registration for the visit was maxed out at 30, 4 students were unable to make it on the actual day, resulting in an attendance of 27 students, including the Vice-president of NTU Psychology Society, who is a regular volunteer there as well. As there were more students that registered for the visit as compared to the number of vacancies available, this volunteering visit is rather popular among the students despite being the first of its kind to be hosted by the society. Furthermore, it is also an interesting visit as the wards at IMH is not something that is easily accessible by the public and provides the opportunity for students to be able to interact with the patients there.
The Society provided two-way bus transport between Serangoon MRT and IMH. At IMH, students were led to the Prayer Room by Mdm Chua and were given a brief introduction to IMH and the profile of the patients admitted there. She presented some statistics on the top 3 mental illnesses in Singapore, which includes Major Depressive Disorder, Alcohol Abuse and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Thereafter, she also presented some statistics on the numbers and top 5 mental illnesses of inpatients and outpatients at the institute. Finally, she gave a short orientation and risk assessment briefing regarding the ward visit which includes the Do’s and Don’ts and what to expect during the visit. Each participant also had to hand in an indemnity form, volunteer application form and a non-disclosure agreement before being able to be let into the wards.
The participants were then split into three groups to go to three different wards and were told to fill up an attendance sheet with their personal particulars for each ward. Each group had two to three volunteers/ward leaders assigned and they were in charge of facilitating the activities to be carried out with the patients at each ward. The participants’ belongings were kept in the Prayer Room and locked before being led to the wards. In the ward, participants befriended some of the patients there and engaged them in their favorite activities. They include playing card/board games such as UNO and Scrabble, folding origami, watching television as well as coloring pictures.
Following the ward visit, Mdm Chua gave a brief debrief and discussed about the experiences of the participants in interacting with the patients through social activities and/or conversations. Some of the participants stated that the visit has helped dispelled some myths about the patients – they are not as violent or ‘abnormal’ as one might think, especially for those undergoing slow stream rehabilitation to be reintegrated into society. Most patients are not ‘scary’ and uncooperative, but rather cooperative and appreciative. In fact, it was interesting to note that some of them are also given some work to do in the institute such as cleaning other wards; allowing them to earn some allowance and practical skills as well.
Peer Helping Programme (PHP)
The Peer Helping Programme (PHP) is a peer support network for students on campus.
It is an initiative of the Student Counselling Centre (SCC), launched in 2009 in collaboration with the NTU Psychology Society.
The programme aims to train and equip a team of student volunteers with relevant skills and knowledge on how to identify and befriend a person with emotional and/or psychological issues, and refer them for professional counselling and/or medical assistance if need be.