Peer Support Guide

Supporting peers in times of difficulty – An handbook for Uplifters Team Leaders

WHAT IS THIS GUIDE FOR?

Uplifters is an organisation providing education to enable migrant domestic workers to make their migration successful. As such, some of our courses educate on money management, mental well-being, and legal rights. However, we are NOT a financial, mental health or legal advisory service provider.

In other words:

We CANNOT give financial, mental health or legal advice to someone.
We CAN actively listen and recommend seeking professional help.

As an Uplifters’ Team Leader, we rely on you to have a great attitude, your actions reflect our organisation’s mission and values. We know it’s not easy to know how to react when you encounter people in difficulty so we wrote this guide.

Even if students don’t openly share their difficulties with you, they may be showing signs of being depressed or anxious. This may be due to issues such as money concerns, working conditions, personal and family issues, etc. This is by no means your responsibility to fix. However, you might be asked for advice by your students or friends or want to proactively provide them guidance. We hope that this guide helps you recognise signs of distress and make wise decisions on the steps you can take.

As always, if you have any concerns, please get in touch with our Management Team:

In all cases, we ask you to respect your students’ privacy at all times.
Never share anything they have told you to someone else and on social media. This also means you can only refer them to us or any other organisation if they agree to.

HOW TO RECOGNISE IF A PEER’S IS SUFFERING WHEN THEY DON’T CONFIDE 

Signs to be mindful of

There is no definitive list of symptoms that will help you recognise someone who is suffering. However, the list below helps to paint a picture of signs to be mindful of.

  • Feeling depressed or worried over some time.
  • Preoccupied with stressful events (e.g. how coronavirus is affecting our lives).
  • Having trouble staying focused and/or concentrating on work or feeling less interested in day-to-day activities.
  • Loneliness, isolation and reduced contact with others.
  • Excessive paranoia, worry, or anxiety.
  • Extreme changes in moods, tearful, aggressive, or difficulty in controlling emotions.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping pattern.
  • Finding it hard to make decisions.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by things.
  • Substance abuse, e.g. drinking excessive alcohol or using drugs.
  • Loss of confidence in both human and religion, loss of faith in fundamental beliefs

On the contrary, good mental health doesn’t mean that you always feel happy or never have bad moods or bad days. But if anxiety, low mood or other symptoms of your mental health are overwhelming or persistent, then it becomes an issue.

What good mental health is

Characteristics you would associate with someone who has good mental health:

  • They feel good about themselves.
  • They do not become overwhelmed by emotions, such as fear, anger, love, jealousy, guilt, or anxiety.
  • They have lasting and satisfying personal relationships.
  • They feel comfortable with other people.
  • They can laugh at themselves and with others.
  • Positive self-esteem.
  • Sense of belonging.
  • A sense of purpose.
  • Positive outlook.

WHAT CAN BE THE CAUSE OF DIFFICULTIES?

Diverse reasons to feel bad

  • Employer or agency physical abuse (if this is the case, please let the Uplifters Management Team know immediately or  use the emergency channels to contact us through Mentors if needed).
  • Any other issue with employer or agency
  • Financial difficulties and pressure from debt collectors
  • Difficult working conditions (long working hours, no private space etc.)
  • Living under the same roof as employer
  • Having a colleague that is not easy to get along with
  • Having little or no friends
  • Living and working in a different country with a different culture
  • Being uncertain about the future
  • Worrying about own health
  • Separation from family
  • Not having control over when you’ll next be able to see your family
  • Worrying about the health of family back home
  • Past traumatic events
  • Experiencing difficulties related to Covid-19 restrictions, including social distancing, regular testing and vaccinations
  • Etc.

HOW YOU CAN HELP AS A TEAM LEADER

Overview

The most important thing is first to make sure you are in the correct headspace to help. If you feel the person needs urgent help and/or to be referred to a professional, please inform a Mentor or a staff from the Management Team. We’ll take over. 

Three main situations may arise:

  • Situation 1: You feel that all that is required is a friendly ear
  • Situation 2: You feel the person needs professional counselling 
  • Situation 3: You feel the person is in danger, likely to be/being harmed by others or herself

What you can do in situation 1: You feel that all that is required is a friendly ear.

Helping is not as easy as we often think. Check out what we suggest as DO’s and DON’Ts:

DO

  • Listen; ask about their needs or concerns. Help them feel understood.
  • Be patient and calm. 
  • Show respect and compassion. 
  • Be aware and set aside your views and opinions.
  • Respect privacy and keep the person’s story confidential. 
  • Be honest about what you know or can and can’t do. For example, “I am not sure how exactly I can help you but I will ask one of our Mentors and try to find out for you.” 
  • Make it clear that even if they refuse help now, they can still access help in the future.

DON’T

  • Don’t force people to share more than what they feel comfortable sharing.
  • Don’t give simple reassurances such as “everything will be alright” or “at least you survived”. Do not minimise the issues your students share with you.
  • Don’t tell people what they should be feeling, thinking or doing. Just provide factual information IF you have it. Don’t make promises which cannot be kept.

You can watch Brene Brown’s 2.5-minute video to better understand what empathy really is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3znEm8DAiI

If you feel it’s getting too much for you, reach out to one of Uplifters’ Mentors: All Uplifters’ Mentors are trained to be official Mental Health First Aiders and can be contacted for help. They will either take over or help you deal with the situation. It is important to protect yourself from being drained by other people’s problems (remember, their problems are NOT yours). This is not part of your role as a Team Leader, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Most people need to vent about their issues, and the following morning, they can see a new perspective and a way forward. Unfortunately, sometimes, it’s not so simple. If the situation is serious, then your students might need extra support. This is situation 2, in the next lesson.

What you can do in situation 2: You feel the person needs professional counselling

The best way you can help someone who has serious issues (legal, financial, or mental health) is to make sure she has access to this help.

There are two ways you can do that:

1. If your student or friend ACCEPTS her situation to be disclosed, reach out to Uplifters’ Management Team and give her contact details: We are not psychologists or financial, or legal advisors but we’re closely connected to people who can help. We will directly refer the students to the appropriate services.

Or

2. If your student or friend DOES NOT accept her situation to be disclosed, offer to give her information on where to get support: use our community directory to find the appropriate service. Please do so only if you feel you have a very clear understanding of what the issue is and a good knowledge of the domestic worker supporting system in the country where your student is based. Remember, mentors and the Management Team can help as well, just make sure in this situation not to disclose your student’s contact details if she doesn’t want to.

It’s not always easy to know if all is needed is a friendly ear or if professional counseling would be best. Never hesitate to discuss it with one of our mentors or Uplifters Management Team.

What you can do in situation 3: You feel the person is in danger, likely to be/being harmed by others or herself

STEP 1: If the situation needs immediate action because the person may be severely hurt otherwise, use these numbers. This should only be in extreme situations. Ideally, contact the Uplifters Management Team first.

Hong Kong

  • In emergency situations, you can contact the local police, ambulance service, fire department and other emergency services by calling 999. 
  • Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre 24-hour crisis hotline: 18288 
  • Samaritans of Hong Kong 24-hour suicide prevention hotline: 2896 0000
  • Social Welfare Department 24-Hotline: 2343 2255

Singapore

  • In emergency situations, you can contact the police by calling 999 and the ambulance service, fire department and other emergency services by calling 995. 
  • Samaritans of Singapore 24-hour Hotline: 1800 221 4444
  • Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST) 24-hour Helpline: 1800 339 4357
  • Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) 
  • Helpline for domestic workers: 1800 797 7977

If you live in another country, you can find the list here.

These numbers will direct you to your country’s emergency services where a person will provide you with the assistance you need.

STEP 2: Always inform the Uplifters Management Team as soon as you can and if they don’t reply within one hour, contact one of our mentors as they have Uplifters Management Team’ private numbers.

YOU’RE A SUPERWOMAN BUT WITH LIMITED SUPERPOWERS

Remember: set your own healthy boundaries

It’s important to set your own boundaries. We all want to be able to help others. You have already helped so many of your fellow domestic workers by being a Team Leader. But in order to be the best role model, you need to take a step back and ensure you are in a good state of mind before you can support others. It’s important to remember, you are not a trained counselor. Know your limits and get help from others, either Uplifters’ Mentors or Management Team.

You rock!

Thank you once again for the fantastic support and guidance you provide to your students. Without you, Uplifters would never have the impact we’re now having on the lives of thousands of migrant domestic workers! We appreciate it requires time and commitment. Additionally, supporting others in their time of need requires a level of maturity to be self-aware and set your own comfortable boundaries. 

Your role as a Team Leader is invaluable! We need you. And we need you in good shape, so please take care of yourself first!

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