How are you? These students want to know

Their event, Conversation Cafe, will use question cards to get friends to share their experiences and thoughts pertaining to mental health at a cafe. Nanyang Technological University undergraduates (from left) Charissa Yang, Cheryl Chua, Ong Shi Ting
Nanyang Technological University undergraduates (from left) Charissa Yang, Cheryl Chua, Ong Shi Ting and Macabelle Chan want to get youth to talk about mental health.PHOTO: HOW ARE YOU, REALLY? CAMPAIGN TEAM
Their event, Conversation Cafe, will use question cards to get friends to share their experiences and thoughts pertaining to mental health at a cafe.
Their event, Conversation Cafe, will use question cards to get friends to share their experiences and thoughts pertaining to mental health at a cafe. PHOTO: MACABELLE CHAN

With mental health increasingly of concern during the pandemic, a group of undergraduates have rolled out a project to tell youth it is okay to not be okay.

The group have introduced podcasts on the topic and are facilitating conversations about mental health with an event called Conversation Cafe, which starts tomorrow and runs till Monday.

"Our group wanted to target a topic that is relevant during these uncertain times," says Ms Ong Shi Ting, 23, a final-year student from Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, who co-founded the project with three schoolmates.

Conversation Cafe, which is for youth aged 19 to 24, is held in collaboration with the National Council of Social Service's Beyond the Label campaign, which aims to dispel the stigma faced by people with mental health conditions.

The event will take place at the Main Street Commissary cafe in Rowell Road, with participants divided into groups of four to six.

They will make use of question cards from Beyond the Label's expansion pack of the card game Smol Tok. There will be 42 cards with prompts such as "What helps you get through a difficult day?" to get players to share their experiences and thoughts pertaining to mental health. Each session can last up to 90 minutes.

"To facilitate such intimate conversations among close friends, we designed the event in a cafe environment to allow this dialogue to happen in a safe, everyday space that youth feel comfortable in," says Ms Macabelle Chan, 24, one of the group members.

They conducted an online survey in October last year with about 200 people aged 19 to 24 and found that 70 per cent of participants did not know how to identify a person with depression or were unsure about doing so.

Nearly six in 10 said they were unsure of or did not know how to give advice to a person with depression.

The NTU group also came up with bite-sized information posts on Instagram and weekly podcasts on Spotify to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Their podcast, Pods for Support, invited guests such as influencer Nicole Choo and mental health advocate Ron Yap to share their expertise and experiences with depression each week.

"This is our part to empower our listeners and let them know they are not alone in facing depression," Ms Ong says.

• Conversation Cafe slots are still available for tomorrow and on Monday and can be booked at bitly.com/hayrsignup. For more information, go to www.instagram.com/howareyoureallysg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2021, with the headline 'How are you? These students want to know'. Subscribe