By Cece Cao Chenxi (23A01E) and Shreya Singh (23S03C)
In what is termed as the “beautiful mess effect”, there is an inherent dissonance in how we perceive our own vulnerabilities as compared with others’ perceptions of it. We may often feel like being vulnerable around others makes us seem inadequate or weak, but this is far from the truth — it is actually attractive to intentionally express our vulnerability.
Examining these vulnerabilities on a personal level and putting our guard down around others undoubtedly requires a great deal of courage.
This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), ‘From Me to Me’ took inspiration from the celebration of the very self-love that characterises this embrace of vulnerability and ourselves. As the year comes to a close with some of us in low spirits after the promotional examinations, let’s take the time to remember all the tips and tricks PHP shared with us earlier this year.
Held from 28th July to 5th August, we saw an assortment of activities, from movie screenings to glitter-jar making, that helped us to acknowledge our own needs and emotions better and become more in tune with ourselves.
Amidst the hectic whir of school life, a good support system is instrumental in keeping us afloat. As such, it is important to surround yourself with people you feel safe around and help uplift you in times of need.
Project FriENDs’ booth helps us identify and let go of toxic friendships that can be mentally and physically draining, while holding healthy friendships close. In a similar vein, the Peer Helpers’ booth, Friendship is Magic, shines a light on the positive impact of healthy friendships, such as a boost in one’s confidence and self-esteem.
Perhaps due to COVID-19 restrictions from the past three years where we had to stay apart from one another, the significance of friendships and mutual support has become more poignant than ever. As Peer Helper Sabrina (23S03Q) put it, the friendship-bracelet making activities offered by both booths were “by far the most well-received by students”, as the bracelets were “a tangible marker of what [students] had achieved at the booth” and symbols of appreciation for their friends.
While many of us probably understand the importance of having a support system and the many avenues available to us, sometimes we may lose sight of small things we can do to strengthen our relationships. Project Pier’s booth encourages us to take charge of the relationships we forge with others and provides us with actionable steps on how to upkeep them.
This booth helps us understand the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, highlighting how the latter can be far more beneficial when faced with challenging tasks.
When we say things to ourselves that are unkind, we alienate ourselves and forget that we are allowed to have flaws. This booth makes us aware of these detriments and draws on the aforementioned “growth mindset” which may help us view ourselves with greater compassion.
Undoubtedly, one of the first few steps towards self-love is to accept yourself for who you are. This self-acceptance comes from being in touch with your own emotions, alongside that of others. Through sticking emoji stickers to indicate their current emotions, students are encouraged to “be real” with themselves and reflect on their feelings.
Ask any student around you how many hours they sleep – most would likely answer with less than 7 hours of sleep. Yet sleep is one of our most important needs, much more so for a growing teenager. Project Dreamcatcher addresses the problem of sleep deprivation by examining its root causes and inculcating good sleeping habits in students.
To aid students in getting quality sleep, the booth also presented a Spotify playlist filled with peaceful classical instrumentals. After all, it is only when we take care of ourselves, can we have the energy to care for our loved ones.
Self-love can often be a nebulous concept to many amidst heavy workloads and school days that seem to just drag on. Yet, understanding what activities bring us joy is sometimes exactly what we need to feel better about ourselves.
Through a discussion of what self-love is and its importance, this booth serves as a good reminder that we should prioritise our own needs more, something more relevant than ever after our examinations.
With a comprehensive range of strategies to try out, we can then strike a balance between work and play more effectively. And who knows? You might find yourself enjoying partaking in a mindfulness activity like meditation.
Talks and Activities
Besides the array of booths, MHAW offered a range of talks by experts and project sharings by Peer Helpers, as well as various fun activities throughout the week.
The first talk of the week addressed a topic that most of us can find highly relatable. We often have high expectations of ourselves, and most times are our own worst critics. Speakers Ms Poh Huixin and Ms Bettina Yeap dismantled the need to be too hard on yourself, and highlighted the importance of self-compassion and putting yourself first.
But what happens if you find it difficult to go forward on your own? Sometimes, all you need during hard times is a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. Ling Shatong, a Raffles Alumnus and SMU Peer Helper came back to share his experience with peer helping, hoping to encourage more students, Peer Helper or not, to better support their peers.
Finally, a key part of understanding mental health is being aware of various mental disorders. This way, we can better empathise with people suffering from these disorders, and recognise symptoms to help others and even yourself seek help. Mental health advocate Ms Mahita Vas shared about Bipolar Disorder, a commonly misunderstood and stigmatised mental disorder, of which risk factors include long-term stress and childhood trauma. Through the sharing, students were more well-equipped to support and have compassion for those struggling with this illness.
Aside from the talks, one of the most popular activities during MHAW was glitter-jar making, where students were able to take home their own jars filled with colourful sparkles. According to participant Ei Chaw (23S06T), the activity was highly “therapeutic” and helped her to “destress through making glitter jars with [her] friends”. Certainly, this simple craft activity emphasised the importance of taking time off to enjoy activities you like, and was a good break from the hustle of school life.
To end off the week, the Peer Helpers screened ‘Good Will Hunting’, a critically acclaimed movie about the bond between mathematics genius Will and psychiatrist Sean, where Sean lends Will support to recover after his emotional crisis. In the comfortable atmosphere of the dark lecture theatre, the audience was able to de-stress after a busy school week, and at the same time, reflect on the movie’s themes of friendship, vulnerability, and hope.
With Covid restrictions finally being lifted this year, many activities during MHAW were conducted physically. According to Peer Helper Pranav Rao (23S03C), the activities were particularly appealing because students could take home some form of memorabilia or merchandise. The underlying focus was “friendships, support systems and loneliness”, with the reason for this being the pandemic, Ms Woo (Counsellor) shared.
While one week dedicated to mental health may not necessarily help with the constant upkeep of ourselves, it surely served as a good reminder to take that first step towards confronting our vulnerabilities. For our Y6s, as the A-Levels loom ahead, it is important to have more regular check-ins with friends, and ourselves. We hope that you feel more motivated and empowered to take care of your well-being through PHP’s tips.