On World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2021 (Sunday), the Singapore Red Cross Academy (SRCA) organised a virtual outreach event, aimed at raising awareness of the importance of mental health while reducing the stigma of persons with mental health issues.
Themed 'Psychological first aid (PFA) for everyone - School (Youth), Workplace, Community', this event was aimed at enhancing awareness of the importance of mental health at every stage of a person's life.
In his opening speech, Singapore Red Cross Chairman Mr Tan Kai Hoe noted that pandemic related stresses have resulted in a greater incidence of mental conditions such as anxiety and panic attacks, nervous breakdowns, stress-induced insomnia, depression, alcohol addiction, and eating disorders.
“Going forward, as a nation, we need to brace ourselves to meet the heightened demand for mental health and psycho-social support among individuals, families, and communities… As the first line of psychosocial support, Psychological First Aid is an important early crisis intervention tool in supporting mental health. The skills empower people to care for and support one another. Like physical first aid, it can help save lives,” underscored Mr Tan.
Sharing by Youth Mental Health Ambassadors
SRCA’s Youth Mental Health Ambassadors, Ms Tyen Rasif and Mr Cho Jun Ming, spoke on their journeys of overcoming mental health challenges to inspire others who are undergoing similar situations to seek help.
Ms Tyen Rasif's father left home when she was 13. Her mother single-handedly raised her and her two sisters. Growing up, she struggled with self-love and self-acceptance. She was 17 when she was diagnosed with clinical depression. She was admitted to A&E twice due to brain seizures associated with depression. At 37kg, she was underweight, very weak and unhealthy.
“Up till then, I never felt that sense of strength physically but more so mentally. After being on medication, there was no other way to get out of that slum I was in other than taking agency and taking control of my own life. When I was 18, I was passionate about running and fitness. It was so empowering to me. Once I gained that physical strength, it strengthened myself emotionally and mentally. I was stronger and healthier. Besides going into fitness, I took it to the extreme of actually going into body building; joining bodybuilding competitions and lifting weights and becoming an international bodybuilder,” she shares.
“I loved working out but I also loved to share it with other people. I realised that there were many other girls, younger girls at the gym. Like me, they wanted to get fit as well. They asked if I was a personal trainer. That was how I got certified. I wanted to learn for myself and share my knowledge of fitness with other girls who wanted to empower themselves through fitness. I have been a personal trainer for seven years and I have helped thousands get stronger. I was lucky enough to pick up film in my own capacity. I started posting videos, YouTube videos. At that point of time, there were not many fitness resources for women. I felt this was the platform for me to share my story and reach out to other girls who also want to go on that journey themselves to get stronger physically and mentally. I can empower people through fitness and music,” she explains.
Today, Ms Rasif is a bodybuilder and also a strong advocate of mental health. She has a platform called 'No Sweat' on Clicknetwork TV and a YouTube Channel. She leverages her social media platforms to reach out to more girls to work out.
“I am very happy that I have gone through that experience. Through it, I emerged a lot stronger. Now I can use my platform to reach out to other people who might be at that point and who want to take up fitness to empower themselves. I am really grateful for this platform,” she shares.
She felt that though COVID-19 was unfortunate and unprecedented, it enhanced her mission.
“It was always my intention to make fitness more accessible and affordable to people, especially younger people. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I saw that need, the demand for resources to check that out themselves as people started working out more from home. People started to go jogging more, move more. People do want to find these platforms to get stronger,” she adds.
Ms Rasif launched the 'No Sweat' app in November 2019, that people can download for free to start working out from home.
“I planned the fitness workshops and invited people down for physical training. It was two months later that COVID-19 hit. It was bad because I could not host those workshops physically. I could not do personal training the way I used to. But it was good because I still have this resource now to reach out to more people from their homes,” she says.
When Mr Cho Jun Ming was 19, he witnessed his father passing away before his very eyes. It was traumatic for him as he could not forget his father's face when he left. As he was an only child, he did not know who to speak to. He was diagnosed with severe depression and was sent for counselling with psychiatrists and psychologists but those counselling sessions did not help him to overcome his struggles. He had initially contemplated suicide. But Mr Cho soon realised the folly of it as it would be unfair to his father, who was struggling to live on, even at his last breath.
“I thought that I should do something meaningful. As I was growing up, I was passionate about filmmaking though my academic results were not good enough to qualify for film school. During my free time, I actually watched movies and YouTube videos and I went back to study my filmmaking skills and jotted down notes. That was how I slowly worked hard to produce more films. I took the opportunity to leverage my expertise in filmmaking to create a positive impact on society. I produced films on social verism; mental health, racial harmony and so on. Films have the universal language that not only connects us to the audience, it also inculcates social messages to promote positive change in our world. I am very grateful that despite all the challenges I faced, I have met many benefactors, my friends and family who have given me their support. I will continue to work hard and continue to create a positive change to society through film making,” he shares.
Mr Cho's short films have gained recognition in local competitions and film festivals in Hainan, New York and Toronto. He was named one of the ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World Singapore Merit honoree in 2018 by the Junior Chamber International for his cultural achievements.
While he noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused much distress, Mr Cho urged everyone to look at things from another perspective and take obstacles as opportunities. He encouraged people to develop their faith.
“We have to develop the resilience and perseverance in us to focus on the things that you can do next, which is productive, instead of dwelling on the past. We can't undo what has already been done. To me, I feel that we just need to brace ourselves, fight hard and focus on our future,” Mr Cho highlights.
Short Film Competition
The Singapore Red Cross also showcased the top three creative films of the Mental Health Short Film Competition, and unveiled the youth winners. Ms Jaye Tan clinched the 1st prize for her film, “If Only”, which highlights the anxieties of the modern generation - “a dangerous yet commonly susceptible inner dialogue”.
“I would like to thank the Singapore Red Cross for organising such a meaningful event for me to participate in. Thank you for the love and support. Deep down I feel that we need to learn that kindness to one another goes a long way, and build a more inclusive culture to be able to talk about mental health openly. I have always wanted to do films on such topics to raise awareness. This is my very first time submitting a film. With this, I am more motivated to do more encouraging films and make a positive change to society,” shares Ms Tan.
Poetry Writing Competition
The Poetry Writing Competition ‘Words Heal the Mind,’ organised in partnership with Migrant Writers of Singapore, saw heartfelt and poignant entries from our migrant workers community. The top three winners recited their poems at the virtual event to resounding applause.
1st prize winner, domestic helper and budding poet Ms Joralyn Mounsel, enthused, “I wrote this poem to speak out about what is on my mind, in my heart. Thank you all for hearing my voice. In these trying times, I hope we can always find comfort in each other. The world might be in chaos today, but I hope in these trying times, we will focus on the silver lining. We should never lose hope that there is still goodness around us and that we have to cherish every moment, speak with kindness to everyone, because everyone is also trying. I hope that everyone will take care of your mental health, and stay safe and healthy. Thank you so much, and congratulations to all.”
Winning Entries of the Mental Health Short Film Competition
Top 3 prize winners:
- If Only – Ms Jaye Tan
- Saving Grace – Ms Ng Ying, Sui Hui Ping & Gauri Saxena (SMU)
- Chrysalis – Mr Timothy Ham (Ngee Ann Polytechnic)
Consolation prize winners:
- Giving – Ms Soh Yu Xi (Republic Polytechnic)
- DENOISE – Ms Saw Ming En (Temasek Polytechnic)
- Typical Singaporean Teenager's Life – Ms Christine Ng (ITE West)
Winning Entries of ‘Words Heal the Mind: A Poetry Writing Competition’
Organised by Singapore Red Cross and Migrant Writers of Singapore
Please click above titles to read the poems.
Consolation Prize Winners:
- A Silent Killer (Medina Valzado)
- Paranoia (Olivetti M. Millado)
- Coffin Box (Saif Tamal)
- Hear Me (Robina Navato)
- Reflection (Haidee Roiles)
The same afternoon, 27 participants took part in a free Psychological First Aid workshop by the Singapore Red Cross Academy.
The organising team thanks all participants of the virtual outreach and the judges of the competitions.
Check out our Psychosocial Support and Psychological First Aid training courses.