An escape room to learn about depression

(From left) Game organiser and Youth Corps Singapore leader Cho Ming Xiu, National Youth Council chief executive officer David Chua and Mr Chia Xun An, who has suffered from depression and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, checking
(From left) Game organiser and Youth Corps Singapore leader Cho Ming Xiu, National Youth Council chief executive officer David Chua and Mr Chia Xun An, who has suffered from depression and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, checking out the clues in the escape room yesterday.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Participants of game being held at The Red Box near *Scape solve puzzles based on mental health issues

When Mr Chia Xun An was 10, he was diagnosed with major depression. His family was going through some financial problems and he felt them acutely.

"I would go through long periods of feeling down. There were times when I felt that life was just not worth living," said Mr Chia, 25.

He was recovering from depression in his final-year at Ngee Ann Polytechnic four years ago when exam stress and unsupportive classmates led him to a mental breakdown. He was later diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

A public event at The Red Box near *Scape in Orchard Road today and tomorrow aims to raise awareness about mental health issues so that people who are struggling with them such as Mr Chia can be better understood by their family, friends and society.

Participants can learn more about depression through an escape room game. The event is sponsored by the Young ChangeMakers Grant disbursed by the National Youth Council.

Called "Jessica - Have You Met Her?", participants solve a series of puzzles that are based on struggles that young people face, said its organiser, Mr Cho Ming Xiu, who runs Campus PSY, which aims to promote mental health awareness and support youth in tertiary education institutes.

Participants can also find out about other types of mental health issues and the resources available so that they can point their loved ones to them if necessary.

LEARNING JOURNEY

They learn how to empathise with her, how to talk to her to understand her depression and anxieties.

VOLUNTEER CHIA XUN AN, on the interaction with "Jessica", the character in the escape room event.

In a particular segment during the event, people can learn how to be supportive towards those who they suspect might have depression, said Mr Chia who is a volunteer at the event and a mental health advocate.

Near the end of the game, participants interact with a facilitator who takes on the role of "Jessica" and learn how to be a friend to her.

Mr Chia said: "They learn how to empathise with her, how to talk to her to understand her depression and anxieties."

The game ends in a room where participants recount their game and real-life experiences and their encounter with "Jessica".

They reflect on how they can be a better supporter to her and those like her.

Based on his experience, Mr Chia finds the interaction useful because people who are unaware of the severity of mental health issues may be dismissive about them.

Mr Chia said that he has been accused of "simply acting out" or "geng-ing", the colloquial term used for malingering, when he was trying to get better.

It was only with supportive friends that he met during his volunteering stints at the Institute of Mental Health that he got better.

He is starting an undergraduate course in construction studies at the end of next month.

"I am in a much better place now," he said.


Correction note: An earlier version of this story said the public event will be held at *Scape. The venue should be The Red Box near *Scape. We are sorry for the error. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2018, with the headline 'An escape room to learn about depression'. Print Edition | Subscribe