ACMI’s new counselling helpline for migrants

  • Nov 28, 2021

The ACMI and UGAT teams’ online collaboration.

A designated free helpline for individuals and migrant workers residing in Singapore was launched on Oct 31, 2021. Through this helpline, christened SGOT Kita Kabayan, free online counselling services are made available from Monday – Sunday, 9pm – 12am for migrants in Singapore, as well as for couples and families.

The helpline is a collaboration between the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants & Itinerant People (ACMI) and UGAT Foundation (UGAT), a Jesuit apostolate in the Philippines that has been providing counselling and educational programmes to the marginalised since 1992. Services will initially be offered to Filipinos but will later be extended in different phases to migrant workers from other countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, China, and India, also in their native languages.

Recognising that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted many globally, and that there is a growing need for psycho-emotional support, ACMI and UGAT have responded with the helpline to address areas of mental health and wellness including anxiety, depression, resilience, dealing with grief and loss, self-awareness, stress management, emotional intelligence and social intelligence, relationship management and adulting.

Listening ears, familiar voices

UGAT’s counsellors already operate an existing helpline in the Philippines and are well-versed and trained in pastoral, marriage/family and crisis counselling.  However, ACMI held a training session with the UGAT team to help them understand the local Singapore context.

UGAT counsellors speak various languages and dialects in the Philippines, such as Tagalog, Cebuano, Bicolano, Bisaya, and Hiligaynon, and counselling sessions take place over the phone so that migrants here can get immediate access to the listening ear of a fellow Filipino with whom they can share their difficulties or challenges in their own language.

Based on the assessment of the UGAT counsellor, if there’s a crisis, the UGAT counsellor will direct the call to the local support team comprising trained volunteer counsellors, social workers and a clinical psychologist. The ACMI-UGAT partnership includes free follow-up or regular counselling sessions over Zoom. However, these are by appointment only.

Jacob Soo, ACMI’s Executive Director explained, “Mental wellness is a big issue these days and with the pandemic, migrants have really felt the depth of hopelessness and despair especially with the language and cultural barriers that make it even more challenging for them. Our helpline services with counselling in different languages help to bridge this gap and encourage migrants to seek early intervention”.

Published on Catholic News on Nov 28, 2021.