By Ianni Tan (18S03C)
Additional reporting by Angus Yip (18A01A)
This article is a preview for Mental Health Awareness Week 2017.
You’ve (very unfortunately) probably heard this same refrain over, and over, and over again – it’s all up in your head, stop being weak and attention-seeking, just be positive and you’ll be better.
This is exactly why raising awareness of mental illnesses is such an important task. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) isn’t just wanting to be reasonably clean and hygienic, anxiety disorders aren’t simply “worrying about things”, and depression isn’t just “feeling down”. Apart from these more commonly-discussed ones, there remains a myriad of other mental illnesses.
Luckily, Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) is back once again, organised by the Peer Helpers Programme (PHP). This year, the theme is “Embrace;”. Though it differs from last year’s, the event has the same goal of cultivating a culture of acceptance, raising awareness and destigmatising mental illnesses.
“Embrace” is an incredibly intimate term – embracing someone is extremely personal act, one that bridges the distance between two individuals, one that comes close to the heart both literally and figuratively. Similarly, PHP hopes to embrace those with mental illness via MHAW 2017.
What does the semicolon have to do with anything, then? The semicolon is a symbolic representation of continuity; as much as the colon indicates a pause, it also suggests that, unlike full stops, this isn’t the end.
This year’s batch of Peer Helpers is comparatively larger than the pioneering batch. Consequently, the school population can look forward to a wider range of topics exhibited by the various project groups, with all projects being done by the students, for the students.
If you would like a glimpse of what will be happening in Week 6, read on:
Sleep Clinic (back by popular demand!) and a Workshop:
Care Packs: Care packs will be given out every day! These packs include food and informative materials from the booths. These supplementary materials provide lots of opportunities to write cards for friends, and include useful information.
Self-Care Booklets: While mental health does include the issue of mental illnesses, that’s not all that there is to it. Maintaining and regulating your emotional well-being is a part of mental health too. Self-care booklets discussing common issues that RI students face, as well as providing tips and methods for self-care, will be given out.
Project D-ARE: This project covers depression and self-care. Look out for handouts, bookmarks, and a Kahoot! quiz.
Rarer Mental Illnesses: There are many more mental illnesses besides depression and anxiety – learn more about dissociative disorder, depersonalisation disorder and more via informative cards. There will also be other cards that you can write on to encourage your friends.
Borderline Personality Disorder Booth: BPD is one of the “rarer” mental illnesses. What is BPD and how can we help those who have been diagnosed? At this booth, there’s a large informative picture book (illustrated by one of our very own Peer Helpers!) that you can flip through.
Social Anxiety Booth: At this booth, there will be posters and cards that have details on the illness and how to help those who have been diagnosed.
Stigma Booth: One of the main goals of MHAW is to combat stigma – pledge your support by writing something encouraging at this booth. There’s a new take on this, though. There will be a bigger picture outside of the notes that you’ve written.
Body Positivity Booth: Besides brochures, fruits will be given out to promote healthy body image (and no, you don’t have to pay for them). Visitors are encouraged to write down anything that they wish to say about body positivity at the booth, and take the bookmarks provided.
Project Postbox: You can write notes of encouragement that will be posted to your friends.
Project CARE: This booth, which will only be open on Wednesday, combines Polaroid pictures and self-affirming messages.
Survey: Two groups have carried out research regarding levels of social support for students. Their survey findings will be presented.
Additionally, this year will feature more collaboration with external organisations, which will also be setting up booths. Non-profit Silver Ribbon will be represented by their collaterals, while the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) will promote anti-drug messages.
Above all, MHAW 2017 asks the question: what can you do to help yourself and others?
With all that said and done, it’s worth noting that 7 days worth of activities (and a great deal of hard work by the Peer Helpers) isn’t the proverbial silver bullet to the stigma surrounding mental illness. But as Peer Helper Shannon Tan (18S03L) puts it, “I hope that it will be a fun and enriching experience for all, and that the population of RI will come to know more about mental health and learn to take care of their mental well-being.”