“You are not alone.”
That’s what Minister for Education Chan Chun Seng hopes people facing mental health difficulties will remember.
Mental health too, is a spectrum. It isn’t just an feels-good/feels-bad issue, added Minister Chan, who is also part of the Party’s #BetterTogether mental health initiative.
“People tend to think of mental health as ‘You’re OK. You’re not OK’. A binary thing. Black, white,” shared the Minister during the latest episode of The Daily Ketchup podcast published on Sep 12.
“All of us at different points in our lives — even at different points in the day — we’re swinging (from point to point),” he explained matter-of-factly.
“So don’t be judgmental and say ‘OK/ not OK’. And don’t be complacent that ‘I’m OK/ not OK’. Because all of us can move between this spectrum.”
Two things for being mindful and #BetterTogether
This idea that we all constantly move along the mental health spectrum is part of #BetterTogether’s message. In fact, thinking about mental health this way also opens a person up to the notion: that yes, improvement’s possible.
“It’s a fitness concept. Every day if we train a bit, every day if we stretch ourselves a bit, we can keep improving,” said Minister Chan.
Being #BetterTogether also means that people can, and ideally should, support each other psychologically. An important notion, when data from #BetterTogether find that 13.4 per cent of Singaporeans experience poor mental health, half will seek professional help when constantly unable to cope with stress and one of every five youths report poor or very poor mental well-being.
“The second thing we want to let people know is that all of us feel certain stresses in different stages of our life. And you don’t have to be shy about it,” said Minister Chan. “And don’t think that you’re the only one facing it. So whether it’s students — you’ve got your own stressors. Even ministers got minister stressors.”
“Every one of us needs somebody to talk to — can reach out to somebody,” he continued, then highlighted that support leans both ways. “Yet at the same time, we can also reach out to help somebody else.”
Because, frankly, the way to mental health often begins with everyday interactions.
“First thing people ask is ‘You see psychologist or therapist one meh?’ the Minister noted about societal attitudes. “Our first port of call is usually people who we trust. Our friends. Our family.”
“We want to equip the friends circle, the family circle, with this ‘basic first aid’. Allow people to reach out to one another.”
Imagine being in charge of Covid — by yourself
Teamwork, in fact, is supremely helpful for safeguarding mental health.
“When you’re a team, you don’t feel so alone, you know,” stated Minister Chan.
His point to illustrate? Covid-19 and the Government’s picking-up-each-other’s-slack approach.
“Because if I tell you ‘Eh, you’re in charge of the whole Covid’, you sure stress out one,” he started. “But if you say ‘OK, don’t worry ah, we all cover each other bases’, one of us may be down — but the whole team won’t be down.”
“Then you feel that’s OK. The pressure’s not on all you.”
In fact, this culture of teamwork will loop a virtuous circle.
“So whether it’s in the ministry, or in the Multi-Ministry Taskforce, or whether as a Cabinet, now as a leadership team, the joy of it is that you know that you are not alone. You know that cover each other’s back so that together, we give the best face possible to the world as representatives of the country.”
Helping others, too, builds agency for the helper: I can do this; I did this.
“We hope that people can build a community of support. A circle of support. So that when really something happens (or before something happens), you are in this community. And you don’t feel so alone,” said Minister Chan. “The ability to give help is very important. So we don’t feel useless.”
“No matter how poor you are, no matter how down you are, you are still capable of doing something for someone else. And that actually builds a lot of confidence and pride.”
#BetterTogether for Singapore
The Party’s #BetterTogether initiative seeks to raise awareness and drive collective action for mental health in Singapore. Also, #BetterTogether sees that the mindset towards taking care of our own mental health and well-being needs changing.
The Party believes that our society will be better when we recognise the crippling effects of mental health issues on any member of our community, and take collective action to make a change.
So, if you want to do something, do share a positive note on social media with #BetterTogether. Or share mental health resources from MindSG. Maybe mail [email protected]. Do help build this circle of support.
Watch the podcast here:
If you, or someone you know, are in mental distress, here are some hotlines for help, advice or just a listening ear:
SOS 24-hour Hotline: 1-767
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Institute of Mental Health: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (for primary school-aged children)
Cover photo credit: The Daily Ketchup