Portal to help youth gain mental wellness

Youth struggling with depression, anxiety, stress or other mental health issues will soon be able to be "adopted" by an anonymous online mentor who can provide a listening ear.

Circle of Care, a website focusing on mental wellness and well- being, will go live on Saturday.

It is being set up by technology entrepreneur Chow Yen Lu and his wife Yee Ling, both 58, after their world was turned upside down in 2009, when their 26-year-old son, Lawrence, took his own life after battling manic depression for eight years. It was just a few months before he was due to graduate with honours in psychology from Murdoch University in Australia.

In 2012, they founded Over the Rainbow, a non-profit organisation promoting mental wellness among young people.

"Our son told us it always helps if someone is there to listen, and to express understanding and empathy," said Mr Chow, describing the platform as an avenue that provides "psychological first aid".

Over $100,000 has been raised for Circle of Care through the couple's friends and contacts.

While there are "islands of help" available here, such as professional counselling services and chat services provided by mental health groups, Mr and Mrs Chow hope to provide comprehensive and sustained support for each young person's journey towards attaining mental wellness by creating a close online community and offering a range of services.

Nine trained volunteers will be on board to provide at least four hours of online support a week to people aged between 15 and 35.

Additionally, the platform will provide self-help resources such as guides on simple activities that boost wellness, such as deep breathing, that can be integrated into day-to-day routines.

Users can also contact mental health professionals, or sign up for free workshops, talks and classes that are conducted by Over the Rainbow on a weekly basis.

By end-2016, Mr Chow plans to have 50 such online volunteers providing additional support.

• The website can be accessed from Saturday onwards at: coc.overtherainbow.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2015, with the headline 'Portal to help youth gain mental wellness'. Print Edition | Subscribe