Concept train on North-South Line aims to destigmatise mental health conditions

Speech bubbles displayed aim to teach the public how to interact with and support persons with mental health conditions. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - MRT commuters on the North-South Line will learn more about mental health with the launch of a Beyond The Label (BTL) concept train on Tuesday.

The floor and sides of the train feature BTL’s icon, called Brave, and the experiences of people with mental health conditions, their journey of recovery and peer support that they receive in school, at home and at work.

Speech bubbles displayed aim to teach the public how to interact with and support people with mental health conditions.

The BTL concept train, with the message “Go Beyond”, is an initiative of the BTL movement, co-led by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and Touch Community Services, and aims to destigmatise mental health conditions and garner more public support for those who have them.

Misconceptions about mental health are still prevalent, with one in four people agreeing that “one of the main causes of mental health conditions is a lack of self-discipline and willpower”, according to a study by NCSS in 2021.

The study also showed that 21 per cent of respondents do not want to live next door to someone who has a mental health condition.

Started in 2018 by NCSS, the nationwide BTL movement addresses the stigma surrounding mental health and promotes social inclusion for people with mental health conditions.

NCSS chief executive officer Tan Li San said that in recent years, the council has received more inquiries from members of the public seeking help for themselves or for their loved ones.

“We have also seen more persons with mental health conditions willing to step forward to share their stories, which will help greatly in getting more people to seek help early,” she said.

NCSS and Touch Community Services earlier this month launched the BTL Collective, which brings together agencies to organise initiatives such as the Beyond The Label Fest and the BTL concept train to spark conversations about mental health, and educate and equip the public to support those living with mental health conditions.

The concept train was launched on Tuesday by Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Trade and Industry Alvin Tan. The train will run daily for four weeks, reaching out to about 504,000 commuters.

Among commuters who got a first look at the concept train on Tuesday was Ms Meng Ting, 25, a radiographer.

She said that the posters grabbed her attention. “The words on the poster are relatable. The use of the word ‘I’ will make whoever is reading it feel understood,” she added.

Fellow commuter and radiographer, Mr Shawn Neo, 26, said that while the posters spark conversations on issues surrounding mental health, it is also important to include parents and educators in these conversations.

Ms Andrea Chan, assistant director of Touch Mental Wellness, said that starting a mental health conversation can be as easy as showing care, and simple questions such as “How can I help?” and statements such as “I’m here for you” are good places to start.

She added: “These questions will kickstart a conversation. The follow-up to these questions would be to validate what they (those with mental health conditions) are feeling and focus the conversation on coping. Lastly, we direct the question towards help seeking – to go beyond differences to inclusivity.”

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