Carmen Wong


 Carmen Wong is an inspiration to people who yearn to follow their hearts and their passion. Despite already graduating with a Biotechnology degree, Carmen further pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Counselling because of her passion to work in the humanitarian field. She is currently the Head of the Centre for Psychosocial Support at the Singapore Red Cross (SRC). 

Kindness and compassion were commonplace where Carmen Wong grew up. Her grandparents, in particular, taught her to embrace these values, and ultimately inspired her to be a humanitarian journalist; to be someone who highlights the plight of those in need.

“Our family home was a haven for friends and family seeking a listening ear, a warm meal or just a comforting presence in difficult times," she recalls. 

Carmen specialised and graduated with a degree in biotechnology, at her parent’s insistence. However, having witnessed her late grandfather's struggles with depression, and armed with a strong desire to make a positive difference in society, Carmen pursued a degree in counselling, a course she funded from her own pockets. 

“With the stigma attached to mental health, my grandfather never sought professional help or help from family members. Instead, he coped by smoking, which took a toll on his health. His struggles motivated me to learn more about mental health; to help those who may be struggling alone, in silence,” she said.

Her degree in counselling opened doors into the field of counselling and mental wellness, and for her to work in a non-profit organisation for 12 years. She has not looked back since. 

Advocating Mental Health 

Prior to joining the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) in 2020, Carmen took on various roles in mental health programme development and management in the non-profit sector. 

At SRC, Carmen, 35, leads the Centre for Psychosocial Support (CPSS), one of the three centres within the Singapore Red Cross Academy. She manages a team that conducts psychosocial support training. CPSS focuses on equipping the masses locally and regionally with mental health knowledge and psychosocial support skills. Locally, CPSS trains volunteers, domestic helpers, migrant workers, corporate groups, youth and various communities.

“We champion the message that mental health, like physical health, is important to everyone,” said Carmen.  

Engaging Ukrainian Refugees 

“Education is often the first step in facilitating change in communities. We are privileged to have the opportunity to advocate the importance of mental health through training,” says Carmen.

She gains satisfaction from seeing people apply the skills from their training to help others. 

Carmen counts her deployment to Poland as part of SRC's Ukraine crisis response in July 2022 as one of her most rewarding experiences.

“The PTAK Humanitarian Centre in Warsaw, Poland, houses 10,000 refugees. Together with local partners, we engaged the Ukrainian refugees in art, sports and play activities specially designed to encourage a sense of normalcy and self-expression," she shared. 

Spreading the Message for Mental Health

One of the main challenges CPSS faces is to make mental health and psychosocial support more accessible to the masses. The pandemic, however, threw up obstacles as physical training for this task was halted. CPSS faced this head-on by pivoting to digital training. 

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

CPSS found that despite setbacks, the pandemic actually generated greater awareness of the importance of mental health and well-being. More people were motivated to learn about incorporating good mental health practices into their lifestyles.  

Carmen is glad to be working with like-minded colleagues and volunteers passionate about supporting their cause. Their stories inspire her to keep going.  

“Learning about the tenacity and courage of our Ukrainian and Polish frontline volunteers humbles me. These volunteers witnessed grief and loss every day, but they never lost hope of what matters — being present,” she says.

She hopes more people passionate about championing mental health and wellness will join the department.

Carmen Wong in Poland

“People with a strong sense of empathy, who are adaptable and passionate about helping others in mental health and wellness will bloom in this field. We welcome people with these attributes to join our team,” says Carmen.  

For Carmen, the knowledge that she can make a difference in someone’s life, whether it’s just someone having a bad day, or someone going through a crisis, is what keeps her going.

By Yatin Pawa, Volunteer
Copyedited by Heidi Boon, Volunteer


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