SKH is the first general hospital to employ a Peer Support Specialist (PSS) to help patients experiencing mental health challenges. Ms Susan Ong, SKH's first PSS, who was trained under a programme by NCSS and IMH, uses her past experience of recovery from mental health disorders to support patients in their recovery journey.
Dr Victor Kwok, Head, Department of Psychiatry, SKH, shared that Peer Support Specialists are a bridge between patients and doctors. As Peer Support Specialists were once patients too, Dr Kwok said that sometimes, patients would find Peer Support Specialists more credible and trust their advice more. They also add value to the healthcare team by contributing perspectives towards patient care as an ex-patient. He cited two examples of Susan's contribution – a suggestion of providing wet tissues for patients to freshen up after tearing up in the clinic and an encouragement board in the waiting area where patients can write notes to spur each other on.
Besides talking to patients receiving psychiatric care, Susan also speaks to patients referred to her from the other specialties, who might be diagnosed with cancer, stroke and other illnesses. These patients may feel down or depressed because of their diagnosis, affecting their compliance to medications and treatment. Susan shared how she managed to get patients to open up to her and instances of how she even managed to step in and counsel patients with suicidal thoughts. Dr Kwok recognizes Peer Support Specialists as an important player of the healthcare team and hopes that more general hospitals will see the value of employing Peer Support Specialists too.