Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 Preview

By Rachael Koh (20S07C) and Ruchira Ramaswamy (20S03A)

This year marks the fifth Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) being held in RI. Five days of sparking conversations on mental wellbeing, learning the importance of looking beyond the label, and appreciating that mental health is of essence. But we have to accept the reality—no amount of “talking about it” will ever suffice. The conversation about mental health will never be over, simply because it is not like a chest you can open up once, stow away, then dust off the cobwebs and bring out again annually. Mental health cannot be a one-off address: we have to accept that it is as integral to our lives as physical wellbeing, embrace it, not shy away from it in daily conversations, and make a conscious effort to be open-minded. With MHAW, the Peer Helpers hope not just to initiate, but also sustain conversations on mental health. 

MHAW poster 2019Trained by the school’s counsellors, the Peer Helpers are equipped with basic counselling skills and are available at My Rest Space (MRS) on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays should you want a listening ear or a safe space to relax after a long day. Sink your hands into kinetic sand in Touch Town, or pop some bubble wrap if you would like! The best part? MRS is a much better place to sleep in than the library**: although they are both quiet places, the Sleep Clinic located in MRS means that no one can wake you up and ask you to leave in the middle of that sweet nap. 

**Disclaimer: it is actually against the rules to sleep in the library. So, come sleep at MRS instead!

From one cool thing to another… introducing the MHAW theme: im’perfect! It reflects the two states of mind that you can adopt: have eyes only for your flaws thereby putting yourself down (imperfect), or acknowledging your shortcomings —inside and out—and realising those are what make you, you! Little chips, cracks and fissures make us endearingly human. And just like how we need to come to terms with our bodies being the way they are, we need to come to terms with our minds and thoughts being the way they are. Everyone has their ups and downs: sad, frustrated or dejected thoughts are never embarrassing or weak. 

That is why the Peer Helpers have planned a series of exciting activities for MHAW, hoping to help you kickstart your journey to accepting yourself—flaws, quirks, and all. From 30 July to 2 August, keep an eye out for interactive booths at the canteen walkway, informative posters on mental health issues, as well as insightful sessions by guest speakers. 

Guest speakers – Human Library!

Ms Susan Ong
Details: 30 July (Tuesday), 2.30pm – 5.30 pm, Blue Room

As someone who used to suffer from depression, Ms Ong is a passionate advocate for mental health. Now part of a peer-learning initiative where she extends a helping hand to those with mental health conditions, she is keen to share her experience with all of us. 

Mr Amos Tan
Details: 30 July (Tuesday), 2.30pm – 5.30 pm, Blue Room

As an RI alumnus, there is no doubt that Mr Tan has a good idea of the stresses and challenges us students face. By hearing him share his battle with depression, we can hopefully learn to see the fighting spirit residing in all of us. 

Huang Huan Yan
Details: 1 August (Thursday), 2.30pm – 5.30 pm, Blue Room

Ms Huang, a member of the senior Peer Helper batch, is back once again to speak about her experience with eating disorders. Get pumped not only for an insightful sharing, but also copies of her book, Brave Girl Not Eating. 

Mr Donovan Cheah
Details: 1 August (Thursday), 2.30pm – 5.30 pm, Stamford Training Room 

As an individual with Aspergers, Mr Cheah is here to open our minds to this rarely-discussed condition as well as his personal experiences. 

 Ms Baizal Rahaman
Details: 1 August (Thursday), 2.30pm – 5.30 pm, Stamford Training Room

Part of the advocacy team at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Ms Baizal is eager to share how we, as students, can do a part to help – be it through reducing stigma, practicing acceptance, or volunteering. 

Access the link tinyurl.com/mhawsharings to sign up for what these one-of-a-kind, enriching Human Library sessions. 

Projects by Peer Helpers

Fret not if you are unable to attend any of the above sharing sessions! Take a stroll along the canteen walkway to visit the booths set up by the Peer Helpers. 

Mental health is a complex concept, and we will never reach an all-knowing stage where we have knowledge of all types of mental health issues. Therefore, the projects, tackling topics such as stress and Gaming Disorder, aim to impart a better understanding about a range of mental health issues. 

Besides engaging, informative posters around school, look out for thought-provoking and aesthetic handouts from each project group, as well as fun, interactive activities (psst, there’ll also be goodie bags). 

Be-you-tiful

Focusing on Anorexia Nervosa, they will place a mirror for participants to write positive messages about their bodies for their friends or for themselves. Be sure to go down to enjoy a cup of grapes along with a bookmark on self care tips!

Beyond the Compulsion 

“They’re so OCD!” is a common phrase thrown around when someone appears to be a perfectionist. In doing so, we fail to realise how we devalue this mental health condition. Keep an eye out for posters by this group to learn what having OCD really feels like.  

Can you End-game

This project focuses on a lesser-known, nonetheless intriguing topic: Gaming Disorder. Head down to the canteen to play games on the iPad and test yourself: can you end the game? 

Dsyxelia

Wait…did the letters just rearrange themselves on the page? Well, this is just a taste of the daily struggles individuals with dyslexia undergo. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects one’s ability to learn and understand language. Taking our ability to skim through Economics lecture notes the night before CTs for granted, many of us are unaware of the challenges that come with being dyslexic. Look out for intriguing materials by this project to delve deeper into this topic!

Embrace

We often underestimate the importance of good, strong self-esteem. This confidence is what puts a spring in our step and a sparkle in our eyes. What better way to boost your self-esteem than to remember all the wonderful things you have in your life? Pen down what you are grateful for at the gratitude board in the canteen. 

KnowSchizo!!

Ever wanted to try VR right here in Raffles? KnowSchizo is bringing a unique VR experience to the canteen booths so you can experience what having Schizophrenia is like. Through this, they wish to reduce stigma against those with Schizophrenia and create a more inclusive society.

Project Post-itive

Project Post-itive hopes to encourage positive thinking in students. Positive thinking reduces stress and greatly increases your lifespan! So come down to the canteen to blot out the board of negative thoughts by adding a post it with something positive!

STRESS-LESS

Stress is a word we hear very often, and an emotion we have definitely experienced more than we want to. The next time you feel overwhelmed and tense, what exactly can you do to ground yourself? Be sure to read the posters to find out, and head down to the canteen booth to take part in relaxing activities—including a pool full of soft toys!

To everyBODY

Bringing light to the issue of Body Dysmorphic Disorder, this booth strives not only to raise awareness about this prevalent issue, but also to impart body positivity in all students—mental condition or no. Look in the mirror and see yourself surrounded by affirmative post-its, and feel free to add on your own messages (positive only, please)!

 

And that’s the jam-packed MHAW! With this range of events, the Peer Helpers hope to open your heart, eyes, and minds to the gravity of mental health, and spur you on to not only start conversations about mental wellbeing, but to sustain them. 

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