Twenty years — that is how long Ms Deborah Seah, 37, suffered in silence, struggling with the self-stigma of living with bipolar disorder and generalised anxiety disorder.
She was diagnosed with them six years ago and, since 2016, has been working with a peer support specialist to overcome her difficulties. Little did she realise that she would one day be trained as a peer support specialist who leverages her lived experiences to help other individuals in their recovery journey.
She says: "Initially, I was a little apprehensive. But I was determined to stay strong for my family, and use my experience of overcoming my pain and suffering to help others.”
After enrolling in a two-month Peer Support Specialist Programme conducted by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), Ms Seah resolved to share her experiences with her peers and highlight that recovery is possible.
Paying it forward
Ms Seah is currently involved in various mental health initiatives.
She is an ambassador for Beyond the Label, an NCSS public education campaign funded by the Tote Board Mental Health Initiative. The five-year campaign aims to change the public’s perception of people with mental health conditions in Singapore.
She is also an advocate with the Institute of Mental Health's Voices of Experience (VoE) Team and a facilitator at PSALT Care Ltd, a charity that provides various mental health services including peer support groups, recovery talks and workshops.
Her experiences in her contributions to help others have been fulfilling.
"I treasure every opportunity that I’m given to share my recovery story, in the hope that more people who are suffering in silence will step forward to receive treatment,” she says.
More support needed
The support that Ms Seah received during her past struggles with mental health has motivated her to help others who are on the same recovery journey.
She recalls how accepting her employer was when she disclosed her mental health conditions in her application for the full-time position of an executive assistant in the multinational corporation.
To tackle the mental health stigma in society, Beyond the Label celebrates the resilience of people in recovery and facilitates conversations on mental health through public education and resources like a conversation toolkit.
Says Ms Seah: "I believe that people struggling with mental conditions can benefit by joining peer support group sessions and rehabilitation workshops, and interacting with others in recovery.”