Two pledge to scale Mount Everest to raise awareness for mental health issues

(From left) Mr Chew Sutat, Mr Khoo Swee Chiow, Mr Yeo Siak Ling and Mr Uantchern Loh at the launch of #Yolo2020 on Nov 28.
(From left) Mr Chew Sutat, Mr Khoo Swee Chiow, Mr Yeo Siak Ling and Mr Uantchern Loh at the launch of #Yolo2020 on Nov 28.ST PHOTO: REI KUROHI

SINGAPORE - A pair of professionals from the finance sector have pledged to scale Mount Everest in May 2020 as part of a new campaign to raise funds and awareness for mental health issues, especially the burden on caregivers.

Mr Yeo Siak Ling, head of business development at stock brokerage UOB Kay Hian, and Mr Uantchern Loh, chief executive for Asia Pacific at stakeholder communications firm Black Sun, both pledged to summit the world's tallest mountain at the launch of #Yolo2020 on Wednesday morning (Nov 28).

Mr Loh, 54, said the idea came about when he met Mr Yeo, 45, by chance at an event last year and discovered that they shared an interest in trekking and mountain climbing.

Mr Yeo later introduced him to Singaporean adventurer and mountaineer Khoo Swee Chiow and Mr Chew Sutat, who is head of equities and fixed income for the Singapore Exchange (SGX) and chairman of mental health charity Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL).

The name of the campaign came from a combination of the pair's surnames, Yeo and Loh. "Yolo" is also an acronym which stands for "you only live once".

Mr Khoo, 54, who has reached the summit of Mount Everest three times, will advise the pair as they prepare for the climb.

Mr Chew, 46, has pledged to accompany them to Everest Base Camp.

 
 
 

A website has been set up at www.yolo2020.com to collect pledges from the public.

This will take the form of personal declarations to make a difference in the lives of others by 2020.

Donations can also be made to support CAL, which is #Yolo2020's main beneficiary.

The campaign also aims to shine a light on mental health stigma and has partnered with the Beyond The Label movement started by the National Council of Social Service.

The link between mountain climbing and mental health issues may not be immediately apparent, but CAL's executive director Tim Lee felt it was an appropriate metaphor for the experiences of caregivers in looking after mentally ill people.

Mr Lee, who was previously a Navy regular, said his caregiving experiences reminded him of a particularly steep surface he faced while mountain climbing in Wales in the 1990s.

"When I was faced with that cliff with nothing much to hold onto, I could not look up because it was too steep. All I could see was the wall with nothing to give me hope that I was progressing," said Mr Lee, 55, who joked that he had been "forced" to climb the mountain.

"Likewise, caregiving can be a long journey with no hope. Caregivers can suffer from burnout and it's a very heavy burden, often with no clear end in sight," he added.