By Faith Ho (22A01A), Mirella Ang (22A01C)
Cover picture courtesy of the Peer Helpers Programme.
MHAW was the culmination of month-long efforts by the Peer Helpers and counselors into a week of activities and advocacy lasting from 12 to 20 August 2021. It aimed to raise awareness of mental health, provide coping strategies, and encourage students to practise self-care.Themed “Alone, Together”, this paradoxical title served as a timely reminder that the student community must stay connected in such trying times in their lives.
Talks & Workshops
There was an extensive lineup of talks and workshops for students (one for each day of MHAW) with topics ranging from mindfulness to mental health issues.
Topics highly relevant to the school population, such as how students could build mindful habits to cope with the stress of their studies, were covered in many talks. Some workshops also guided students through mini self-care activities, such as #MYHEARTSPACE, #MYHEARTSPEAKS, brought students through an artmaking project.
There were also sharings by students and ex-students alike. A current Y6 student, Elizabeth Paulyn Gostelow (21A01B), shared about her journey with scoliosis and the book she wrote about it, “Embrace”. In the same talk, an alumnus, Huang Huanyan, also talked about her experience with an eating disorder and her work “Brave Girl Not Eating”.
A team of current Y6 students also shared their suicide prevention film, “I Can’t“, which garnered the Audience’s Choice Award in the Singapore Mental Health Film Festival (SMHFF) Short Film Youth Competition 2021.
Speakers came from diverse backgrounds, such as Brigadier-General Chua Jin Kiat, who shared about stress in Singapore and coping mechanisms, and a social worker, Mr Zhang Liren, who talked about the impact of Covid-19 on families from the lower socio-economic strata.
At the end of each talk, different Peer Helper groups shared their various projects regarding mental health.
This year saw the largest number of projects helmed by the Peer Helpers, with a grand total of 11 projects created. They ranged from raising awareness of mental illnesses to promoting general mental wellbeing. Each group set up a booth in the canteen walkway and designed collateral to be taken by the student population.
Originally, the booths were meant to be operated by the Peer Helpers. “We have had to adapt by having self-service booths with QR codes to scan… We were also unable to have things that students can touch and interact with – for example, one project wanted to set up an ASMR booth but had to settle for a booth engaging the sense of smell rather than the sense of touch.” Ms Woo Mei Hui, the psychologist at Raffles Guidance Centre, remarked.
Even so, the counsellors were “very delighted” with the reception to MHAW this year. “We saw many students taking part by writing notes, taking pictures in front of the mirror, and doing the quizzes!” Ms Woo said.
To top it off, goodie bags were given to every student who participated in MHAW 2021. Shae Lee (22A13A) said “[the logistics team] sought to make the event appear accessible and fun for all to join. We also wanted to make sure that there could be an item that would serve as a reminder to students regarding the importance of mental health.”
Unfortunately, Covid-19 had a potentially adverse impact on engagement in MHAW. One peer helper said, “I think having the peer helpers stand at the booth and explain the projects maybe would have made MHAW more interesting to the students.”
As the canteen was the most accessible place, most students could not miss the various projects put up. However, this did not immediately translate to engagement as many collateral materials remained mostly untouched. That being said, over the course of the week, groups of students could be seen viewing the various posters put up.
Though MHAW may not have had a huge impact on the school population, it continues to reinforce the importance of mental health in the school community. Hopefully, it creates a greater awareness of various mental health issues and how students can better face challenges that will inadvertently appear. Otherwise, they might just have to remain alone, together.
Learn about mental health, book a peer helping session, and more from the Raffles Peer
Helpers website: https://rafflespeerhelpers.wordpress.com/ .
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