By Jeanne Tan (17A01B ) and Bryan Ling (17S06C)
This article is a preview for Mental Health Awareness Week.
Aware. Accept. Assist.
The tagline for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) points towards the heart of the issue.
In our stressful world of deadlines and grades, our mental health unfortunately takes a hit. But the sad reality is that stigma continues to surround seeking help for mental health. Social stigma and fear of judgment are often impediments to timely intervention. This can lead to serious consequences.
More importantly, mental health applies not only to the everyday struggles against stress and anxiety that many face but also to the more serious terrain of mental illness.
Mental illness encompasses a variety of conditions, which can range from mild, manageable symptoms to serious, life-threatening ones. However, even as society grows ever more aware of these illnesses, the stigma still lingers. The frequency of these symptoms around us seems to only have led to greater dismissal of potentially serious illnesses. To rehash the common comparison, you don’t ask someone to “get over” a broken leg, or just “meditate and be positive” when suffering from cancer, so why do you say these things to someone suffering from depression or chronic anxiety?
Being less visible and tangible than other illnesses, the struggle against mental illness is frequently dismissed for simply being “mind over matter”, when the struggle is far more severe.
Unfortunately, this is the treatment that people suffering from mental illness still receive, and it may prompt them to dismiss their own symptoms. And that internal struggle is especially difficult when most are ignorant of or insensitive towards your condition.
And so the theme comes at the critical period before prelims and promos. The approach addresses the three sides to the battle against stigma for mental illness.
Besides focusing on the heightened stress and anxiety that many of us face, MHAW seeks to draw attention to our own perceptions towards mental illness. Through this, it hopes to open up a dialogue on mental illness, beyond that of our individual experiences.
Not everyone suffers from the same illnesses, and thus we may not understand the severity of what others face. But, as for any other type of illness, it is only after we learn that each individual experiences something different from us, that we can start to accept different experiences and needs as valid. And this acceptance can go a long way in helping those who struggle with mental illness to seek help and cope with daily life.
Beyond that, there is plenty that we can do to help both ourselves and others to maintain good mental health. Opening up the dialogue on mental health allows for better communication about the needs of the mentally ill, and that is the key end goal of the Peer Helpers in introducing the concept of mental health awareness to the school.
Sleep deprivation is a serious problem which results in moodiness, memory problems, impaired cognitive function and even depression. While there are plenty of places where one can go sleep within the school, a sleep corner will be set up at the Blue Room. After signing in students will be assigned a mat within the room, and a Peer Helper will wake them up at the designated time. Participants are encouraged to bring their own towels in order to wipe down the mats before and after sleeping.
Peer Helping Booth
For those who wish to talk with a peer helper, a booth will be set up on Wednesday and Friday from 1:30-3pm at My WorkSpaceArea (above the printing shop). Sign up at tinyurl.com/rafflespeerhelpers!
A photo booth in the canteen will be set up for students to take a commemorative polaroid. Students are encouraged to share the photos and spread the word about mental health awareness week, as well as take the opportunity to make a stand on mental health issues.
Anti Anxiety Kit
With the stress of encroaching exams increasing, a small anti anxiety kit will be given out on a first come first serve basis. Items include small goodies, bubble wrap and a small booklet that will enable readers to learn more about anxiety and ways they can prevent it or help a friend with anxiety. Students are encouraged to gift kits to their friends, and tools to attach an encouraging note to the kit.
Aware. Accept. Assist. While a single one week campaign cannot eradicate the issues surrounding mental illness, it’s a step in the right direction – the first step in a walk towards a better, happier world.
Mental Health Awareness Week will take place from 22-26th August. Head down to the canteen walkway to take a look at the features during the week!