Mental Health Awareness Week 2018: A Preview

By Mabel Yet (19S03Q) and Varun Karthik (19S06A)

With campaigns about mental health issues popping up all over the world (Singapore included), as well as an unprecedented number of celebrities sharing about their own struggles, our awareness of mental health issues has significantly increased. This progress might have led many of us to assume that we are already well-aware of the misconceptions and stigmas that shroud mental disorders, resulting in our dismissal of the value of mental health campaigns. And for those who are struggling themselves, especially, they would know that mental health can be something inexplicably raw and personal – something which mental health campaigns cannot fully reflect.

Yet, while mental health campaigns might not wholly capture the complexity of mental disorders, they undoubtedly serve as an outlet to start conversations about these sensitive topics we tend to steer away from. Regardless of whether we suffer from mental illnesses, such campaigns lend us the courage to open up about our feelings and seek comfort in the fact that we are not alone.

Some of us might have the notion that people suffering from mental illnesses are few and far between, but research has found that a staggering 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness. For some, this statistic may come as a shock — how can 20% of the people I know have some kind of mental disorder?

Nonetheless, as most of these struggles are too personal to articulate properly and hence kept buried away within the individual, the reality remains that we can never really know. Mental illnesses can manifest in someone you’d least expect. Moreover, few seek help for their illnesses, and even fewer open up about it.

Despite the increased illumination of mental health issues, they are often, nevertheless, kept hushed behind closed doors. In a school setting like RI, especially, our lives are expected to be picture-perfect, and finding a chink in our armour or letting ourselves be vulnerable almost seems like a sin.

This is where the Peer Helpers come in.

Peer Helpers Programme (PHP) is a Monday Elective Programme, which aims to teach participants basic counselling skills and expose them to the spectrum of mental health disorders. They research on a specific mental health issue, which culminates in their annual Mental Health Awareness Week, where they share their projects with the school population through interactive booths and games.

For this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which is happening from 23-27 July, students from the PHP aim to not only shed light on mental health disorders, but to also start a dialogue among the student population about the importance of mental health. It hopes to encourage students to open up about their struggles, as well as build a more compassionate and caring school community.

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The theme for this year’s MHAW.  

Why the theme ‘feel’?

The word “feel” encapsulates multiple layers of meaning. “To feel would mean to be aware of those around us– their presence, emotions and thoughts,” explained Shakthi (19S03A), Chairperson of PHP, “To not only understand, but empathise with others.” If you are wondering about the meaning behind the logo, Shakthi shares that “the two dots represent the connection between people formed through empathy and feeling for them.”

So what’s going on next week?

Talks

The U and I in Failure — Project U and I

When and where: 25 July (Wednesday), 2.30pm to 4.30pm in the Blue Room

In a talk titled “Let’s Talk About Failure”, project U and I will be calling upon alumni, current students, and a range of other guests to share about their experiences with failure. Having watched countless Ted Talks and motivational clips, many of us might have become desensitized towards the hackneyed topic of overcoming the odds and achieving success. However, one can expect an honest, genuine conversation during this session, as anyone from the floor is free to share about their personal experiences.

Brave Girl Not Eating — Huang Huan Yan

When and where: 27 July (Friday), 12:30pm to 2pm in the mini-LT

The second talk will be by Huang Huan Yan, a member of the senior PHP batch. She will be sharing about her experience dealing with and recovering from her eating disorder. Participants will also receive a copy of her self-written and illustrated book for free.

Canteen Booths

Unable to make it for these talks? Fear not, for there will be booths set up along the canteen walkway throughout the week. As the topic of mental health is both sensitive and complex, PHP hopes to “bring these issues down to earth and present them in digestible and fun activities that people would really enjoy.”

Expect to be educated by the informative, engaging and thought-provoking posters that the Peer Helpers will have on display. Besides posters, students can also look forward to activities ranging from a photo booth simulations of what a synesthete experiences. (We have also heard whispers of a goody bag upon completion of the activities.)

Interpersonal connection

After meeting so many new people through your OGs and new classes, we often face the difficulty of establishing deeper, more personal connections. The hectic timetables and the pile of undone tutorials are not of much help either.

If you want to show your appreciation for your friends, come down to the photobooth at the canteen walkway with them anytime next week. Reconnect with them. Reminisce over old times. Update each other about your lives. And of course snap an Instagram picture while you’re at it.

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Conversation starters to forge deeper connections with others.

ASMR

Autonomous sensory meridian response. Probably something you’ve heard of, or have seen on your Youtube Recommended or Spotify playlist. Maybe you’ve even listened to it. But do you truly know what it means and how it correlates to mental health? Head to the booth to have an interactive experience with compilations of ASMR videos and a small booth for a multi-sensory experience of various ASMR triggers.

Heart on my sleeve

‘Heart on My Sleeve’ aims to encourage students to acknowledge their own feelings by getting them to reflect on and express how they feel. After all, the first step to self-regulation of emotions is to be honest with yourself about them. The booth will also feature posters about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

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Physical stress relief methods.

A touch journey

People are often stressed out nowadays, but with the sheer amount of work being one of the reasons why, how can we find the time to de-stress? Physical stress relief provides a quick yet effective way of doing so. From squeezing a stress ball to popping bubble wrap, this project will take you on A Touch Journey of some stress-relieving methods.

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Synesthesia, a condition in which one sense is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses.

Synesthesia: Uniting the senses

Synesthesia is a neurological condition whereby a sense stimulates another sense involuntarily. There are over 80 different types of synesthesia identified to date, and this condition affects roughly 4% of the world population (meaning one of your classmates is likely to be affected by it). By providing simulations of what a synesthete experiences, this booth seeks to raise awareness on this relatively common yet not well-known condition, and allows us to better empathise with those suffering from it.

Pay attention to my ADHD

This booth aims to reduce stigma towards ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), as well as provide important information regarding its types and diagnosis. Given how ADHD is commonly thrown around as a careless joke or insult, it is especially crucial for students to understand the seriousness of the disorder. The Peer Helpers endeavour to spread their message through interactive games and videos which promise to not only educate, but entertain as well.

 

 

Project Love Yourself

Body image refers to how someone views the aesthetics or sexual attractiveness of their own body and has become a prevalent issue in society. While we hold people to certain standards of beauty, we tend to be harsher on ourselves and this culminates in effects such as low self esteem and disordered eating. This project aims to encourage students to appreciate their flaws as much as what they perceive to be their plus points, so that they can learn to truly embrace themselves.


Perhaps one mere week cannot fully shed light upon mental health issues or eradicate the stigma it is associated with, but it serves as a reminder for us to love ourselves and others in our daily hustle. Do participate in the activities happening next week with an open heart and mind– you will be surprised at how much you will gain.

One thought on “Mental Health Awareness Week 2018: A Preview”

  1. Great blog!
    Thank you for sharing such a vital piece of information. We for sure take so many things for granted!

    Do go through my blog,whenever you’re free, I hope you’ll like it as well. :)

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