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New support network for caregivers of people with mental health issues

Since her mother was diagnosed with dementia five years ago, it has been harder for Madam Badurunnisa Begum Shaik Dawood to keep up with the 80-year-old's mood swings.

She has refused to take medications on time and even to sleep at night.

She has also falsely accused Madam Dawood, 61, of not giving her food.

"I didn't know what to do, my mother kept crying, and my heart broke to see her like that," said Madam Dawood, the primary caregiver for her mother.

Caregivers of people with mental health issues can soon tap a new support network to be piloted for one year, starting next month.

This network aims to enable caregivers to connect and share experiences, and equip them with knowledge on managing mental health conditions.

Launched on Sunday (April 10), it is the first caregiver support network formed in the wake of Parliament's endorsement last Tuesday of the White Paper on Singapore Women's Development as a whole-of-nation plan to build a fairer and more inclusive society.

Caring for caregivers' well-being as a society by forming a community-based peer support network is one of the 25 action plans proposed in the White Paper.

The People's Association Women's Integration Network and Women's Executive Committees (WEC) will be teaming up with two key partners - Caregivers Alliance Limited and National Council of Social Service - to identify caregivers to join the network in six divisions, including Nee Soon East, Fengshan and Bukit Gombak.

Each network will have at least 10 WEC volunteers and a minimum of 15 caregivers.

Ms Karen Took, 54, a WEC volunteer involved in the network, is looking forward to setting it up to enhance caregiving skills. She cares for her mother who was diagnosed with depression in 2019.

She said: "With this network, caregivers can connect with others and not feel so stressed. We are planning to organise activities for them, to promote well-being... physically and mentally. So the activities we intend to organise are like modern yoga sessions or even meditation."

Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment and Transport Amy Khor, the adviser to the council that formed the network, said: "I think what is also different is because there are Women's Executive Committees members and grassroots organisations that will be involved. We can also leverage the many activities they are already organising for residents.

"They can also invite caregivers to participate. For instance, our Women's Executive Committees have this 'better us, better me' series about self-care for the participants."

CAREGIVERS/CAREGIVINGparentingWOMEN'S DAY