Tell us about yourself.
I’m a social work student at SUSS. Prior to this, I studied linguistics at NTU and also worked full-time helping youths-at-risk and young offenders. I am also the Founder and Executive Director of Campus PSY Limited, a youth mental health non-profit organisation.
Why did you decide to pursue your career?
During my JC years, one of my close friends struggled with depression and ultimately had to drop out of school. When I first learnt about his condition, it came as a shock as he was a sportsman and was doing well academically. We did some research on how to support individuals with mental health conditions and found out that family and peer support offered vital help to them. So we visited him at his place. We got a shock of our life as he looked very haggard and frail. He was not eating well due to his condition.
Initially, we found it difficult to engage him, but as he saw our genuine care and concern for him, he started opening up about his condition – it was something very difficult to share with others as it was highly stigmatised back then when most did not fully understand what depression was. We realised that by being there and providing a listening ear, it helped him to regulate emotionally. Eventually he got better, before he got enlisted.
In late 2016, a group of us also volunteered at IMH. We would organise activities for and spend time with long-stay patients (elderly schizophrenic patients). Through this work, we realised that many of our peers are also struggling with mental health issues and are afraid to seek help due to the perceived stigma associated with it. It occurred to us that since we are a group of passionate youth volunteers, we could partner with mental health professionals to co-create training programmes that recruit youths nationwide for training to place them back in schools or at work to help their peers. With this, we launched the Campus Psy movement to form a network of peer support for the youths.
As Campus Psy work became more recognised, we registered it as a non-profit organisation. Today, it is funded by the Tote Board and other agencies, reaching out to more than 1000 youths.
Prior to enrolling at SUSS, I had always enjoyed working with youths and had spent a few years working in the social services sector. It was rewarding to see them improve. The sense of satisfaction is something that money cannot buy.
Please share some rewarding experiences from your work.
One of our volunteers had previously suffered from mental health issues. He was a student from a prestigious JC. When he first connected with us, he had very low self-esteem. After he started to serve with us at IMH, he began to relate to the patients. Gradually, he shared his volunteering experience with us and this began to build his confidence. After serving for about a year, he took his A-level examinations and did pretty well.
Due to his volunteering experience, he applied to major in economics and did a minor in social work as well. I could see that it had really impacted him and empowered him to look beyond his own labels and conditions. This is one of my fondest moments of someone so young and broken who came our way, but after his personal recovery, could now guide youths with mental health conditions. It has really encouraged my team.
What goals are you working towards?
We hope to see that, one day, youths with mental health conditions, who are growing in numbers, are able to seek help without the fear of stigmatisation. Every young person in Singapore should also be equipped with mental health literacy skills to support themselves and help their peers who may be facing mental health conditions. We are currently working with various partners in the public, social service, healthcare, youth and education sectors to help scale up the peer support efforts in the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs).
More importantly, I think our society (we can train and have all these initiatives), Singaporeans and everyone can accept mental illness as any other illness. There would be no stigmatising labels or finger-pointing at mental illnesses as being weak or strange. Anyone struggling with mental health conditions can openly share and seek counsel or help from others.
How has your SUSS experience shaped you and helped you pursue your passion?
In my part-time studies at SUSS, I have met a diverse group of course mates who are mothers, mid-career switchers and individuals from various walks of life and life stages. It is amazing to see their level of commitment to balance their course work and career or family. This has really helped put things into perspective for me, how important it is to never stop learning. I’ve also learnt at SUSS that it is never too late to pursue your calling, no matter your age or stage in life.
Here, it is the real world that we are looking at. It has humbled me a lot and helped me to be more empathetic towards people with diverse backgrounds. This experience can also help us to better serve the community, adjust well in the working world, and learn to be resilient in our paths ahead.