More seeking help amid push to raise mental health awareness

Ms Linda Chua, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, with the panel sharing her story at the MindStories exhibition at Ang Mo Kio Central Stage yesterday. The AMKFSC volunteer wants to help people overcome their own mental health disorders.
Ms Linda Chua, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, with the panel sharing her story at the MindStories exhibition at Ang Mo Kio Central Stage yesterday. The AMKFSC volunteer wants to help people overcome their own mental health disorders.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

More people have been seeking help in handling mental health conditions.

According to Dr Vincent Ng, chief executive officer of AMKFSC Community Services, there has been a 42 per cent increase in people seeking help from its mental health service MindCare over the past two years, either for themselves or their loved ones.

He was speaking at yesterday's MindStories exhibition at Ang Mo Kio Central Stage, the first event in this year's Mental Health Awareness Singapore Learning Series initiative.

Organised by AMKFSC, it features the personal experiences and anecdotes of 18 people tackling mental health conditions, such as those in recovery and caregivers.

Guest of honour Koh Poh Koon, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC and Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said that from 2016 to June this year, AMKFSC Community Services provided intervention to almost 400 people with mental health conditions in Ang Mo Kio GRC.

He cited "unsolvable" neighbourly disputes within the community, saying some stem from residents' mental health issues.

He added that children today face a lot of stress, not just in their studies, but also from the risk of being cyber-bullied, due to the influence of social media.

 
 

"During our time, we fought over marbles and spiders, physical things that you can actually replace when damaged. But today, the problem is not a physical one, it's a mental one," he said.

Dr Koh also acknowledged the progress made in treating mental health issues, citing the change in the environment of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in Buangkok.

"When you look at IMH as a hospital today, it is not like the old IMH of yesteryear," he said.

"The old IMH of yesteryear was like a maximum-security prison, everything was closed up. Today, the new IMH looks like a holiday resort, completely open, and people are free to walk in and out."

The Mental Health Awareness Singapore Learning Series initiative marks the first time mental health community partners here have put together outreach events on such a scale.

Organised by 33 community partners, including the Agency for Integrated Care and IMH, the initiative will feature roadshows and carnivals held in five different regions in Singapore until Oct 31.

The initiative aims to raise awareness of and correct misconceptions about common mental health issues, while letting people learn how to cope with stress and build resilience.

One of the participants at yesterday's exhibition was Ms Linda Chua, 41, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder while going through a string of personal problems.

While she knew the signs of a mental health disorder, having majored in psychology at the University of London, Ms Chua said being in the actual situation is very different from studying it theoretically.

She now works as an accountant and part-time teacher, and wants to help people overcome their own mental health disorders, as a volunteer at AMKFSC.

"I hope they don't get hindered by the mental conditions they are facing, and realise their potential and their purpose in life," she said. "Live a fulfilling life despite whatever mental conditions you may have."

Correction note: This report has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2018, with the headline 'More seeking help amid push to raise mental health awareness'. Print Edition | Subscribe