From Moulmein-Cairnhill to Somerset, initiatives in Singapore aim to improve the mental health of different age groups

SINGAPORE: Initially, the elderly people who make up most of the Moulmein-Cairnhill estate seem to have many friends, stopping to catch up with longtime neighbors and greet the children.

But their actions may belie their struggles.

In the division within Tanjong Pagar GRC and which stretches from Farrer Road to Serangoon Road, these seniors may not feel connected.

“Older people are sometimes very lonely,” Ms Jessica Lum, chair of the Moulmein-Cairnhill residents’ committee, told CNA.

“So when they get together, we need them to meet face to face. They tend to share a lot and then they will be happier.

It is for this purpose that “wellness circles” have been set up in the territory, as part of a pilot initiative aimed at bringing people together in order to facilitate access to activities and assistance. emotional.

As part of the initiative, by the social enterprise Happiness Initiative in partnership with the Department of Culture, Community and Youth’s SG Mental Wellbeing Network, is a program called Our House Downstairs.

This is a series of arts and crafts sessions organized by community partner 32cm which helps around 50 Moulmein-Cairnhill residents interact and bond around neon paint bottles at the Pek Kio Community Club every Thursday.

The hope is that the initiative will expand and train more people to act as mental health first responders in community settings such as neighborhoods and schools.

“We are considering having more partners to have more initiatives and more activities for (residents),” Ms. Lum said. “We need more training for volunteers to bring them together.”

REACHING YOUTH

However, it is not just the elderly who need such support. One group has made the Somerset district their base for reaching young Singaporeans.

Youth Corps’ Re:ground @ Dungeon at The Red Box along Somerset Road opens its doors every Thursday, offering a cozy environment, wholesome board games and a listening ear from supportive peers like Ms Anita Chan.

“When young people feel they want to talk to someone about their issues, we’ll just sit down, talk to them and just provide them with a listening ear and, if needed, direct links to relevant resources such as professional help if needed,” she said.

Sometimes that means asking about their day. But when a little nudge is needed, the 27-year-old turns to question-based games like Smol Tok to keep the conversation going.

Having struggled with change, uncertainty and stress soon after entering the workforce, Ms. Chan was convinced of the importance of youth mental health.

She joined the Youth Corps Community Peer Supporter Program in September 2021 to help others like her.

TARGETED PROGRAMS PROVIDE SUPPORT

According to psychologists, these targeted programs go a long way in providing more effective support for people struggling with mental health issues.

“There are some coping mechanisms that can really help and I find these wellness circles or mental health awareness campaigns or so-called first responders can be helpful in dealing with this distress,” Dr Kelvin Ng said. , senior consultant at the Institute of Mental Health. (IMH).

“As it’s local, it’s not that stigmatizing. Imagine having to come to IMH, for example, for something that isn’t really a big mental health issue. It can be quite difficult for some people,” he added.

Although Dr Ng acknowledges that community support could ease pressure on professional services, he fears that information overload or misinformation could lead some to believe they might be sick.

“When you’ve increased awareness, decreased stigma, reduced barriers to seeking help, we find that there are some who would come – what I call the ‘well worried’ – who actually don’t have no problem,” he said.

“They might not even be distressed, but it might be stress and they might (think): ‘Oh, I watched that on TV, I read that on the internet. ‘have this, do I have that?'”

Dr Ng said the key is knowing the difference between distress and disorder, and with the right training, community volunteers can help make a difference to Singapore’s mental health response.

“Once the distress reaches the level of disorder, which means they have developed a mental health problem, then that would be where mental health professionals like me should (step in),” he said. declared.

About Jun Quentin

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