New mental health centre in Newton to focus on helping young people

One of the counselling rooms at the new centre. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

SINGAPORE - More young people can receive mental health help with the opening on Saturday (April 23) of a centre in Newton that focuses on helping youth and adults.

The centre is the fourth one opened by Brahm Centre, a charity set up in 2012 with a focus on promoting happier and healthier living to seniors, but has been expanding its focus to young people as well.

Mr Tan Ding Xuan, 21, said the strategies learnt during a foundation-level mindfulness course at Brahm Centre helped him through the anxiety he felt during his national service.

He was the emcee at the launch of the centre at Goldbell Towers as he had joined Brahm Centre as an intern, after experiencing the benefits of the course.

The new centre has two counselling rooms and two seminar rooms for courses on mindfulness - the practice of paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way - and youth programmes.

Brahm Centre founder Angie Chew said youth today face issues such as worrying about the future, the pressure of being compared with others and feeling that they are not good enough, and abuse, as well as stigma and anxiety from identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, among other things.

She added that the new centre would offer more accessible mental health services, being centrally located.

She said: "The approach to helping people with mental well-being issues... needs to be holistic in nature. And the two stakeholders that have the greatest influence on our young are parents and teachers."

Adjunct Associate Professor Chew said Brahm Centre had, in December last year, launched a Lighthouse Programme that has a mental health literacy component and internship component.

The literacy programme for schools is done in partnership with Tan Tock Seng Hospital's psychiatry department and Harvard Medical School assistant professor in psychology Sara Lazar.

It involves students, parents and teachers in workshops on mental well-being, understanding how the brain works, and using mindfulness to reduce stress.

Since January, 1,900 students, 350 teachers and 50 parents have participated.

The programme also offers structured internships for students aged 15 and above to develop work skills as well as mental resilience. Since December, 20 young people have participated.

In collaboration with MOH Holdings, Brahm Centre is also offering free counselling services to its staff who are medical officers, houseman officers, dental officers, and medical and dental residents.

Mr Tan Ding Xuan emceeing at the launch of the centre. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary, who was the guest of honour at the centre's launch, said in a speech that even as Singapore gradually resumes normal activities amid the Covid-19 pandemic, many people may continue to feel anxious or worried.

"In dealing with this, a supportive community is going to be vital in normalising conversations on mental health and encouraging those with mental health needs to then reach out," he said.

Mr Tan said he took part in a more advanced course in March after having seen how mindfulness had helped him.

"I learnt more about the triggers of my anxiety, fears, anger, regrets and guilt. These courses have given me a much-needed foundation to greet the future with more confidence and optimism."

Now in his work with Brahm Centre, he hopes to reach out to youth like him.

He manages the charity's social media pages, and is launching a 10-episode podcast series in May on youth mental health.

Together with Prof Chew, the pair will discuss peer pressure, hustle culture, which is the mindset of putting work above everything else, as well as discrimination, bullying and depression, among other topics.

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