President Halimah encourages youth to not be afraid to discuss mental health issues

President Halimah Yacob visited SAMH Creative SAY!, a preventive and wellness centre, on Feb 25, where she observed the activities carried out by youth facilitators such as drama skits and group discussions regarding mental health issues. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Once a week, Ms Jaymie Wong, 17, volunteers at a centre in Woodlands where she helps run drama activities for fellow youth.

On Monday (Feb 25), the applied drama and psychology student at Singapore Polytechnic was joined by two of her course mates for a special forum theatre performance at the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH)'s Creative SAY! centre.

In the audience was President Halimah Yacob, who visited the preventive and wellness centre in Woodlands to show support and to raise awareness for mental health, which is a focus of this year's President's Challenge.

The centre, whose initials stand for Sports, Arts and Youths, offers sports, outdoor and art activities to help spark conversations, promote mental well-being, and prevent the onset of mental health issues among young people.

Its programmes, which are open to all youth between the ages of 12 and 35, include art workshops, dance classes, floorball, badminton, and sailing.

Monday's performance drew attention to the plight of those suffering from mental health issues and placed emphasis on ways to show support and help them.

Ms Wong said forum theatre, where spectators are allowed to interact with the performers and change the course of the play, allows for the audience to understand that they can make a difference instead of being mere bystanders.

"This kind of acting shows the audience all the different perspectives," she added.

Madam Halimah said the issue of mental health has to be tackled through a multipronged approach, adding that the community has an important role to play.

"Art therapy, group therapy and sports help in the healing process. We need such programmes to be more accessible and affordable to the youth," she said.

One of the students who regularly attends sessions at SAMH Creative SAY!, Muhammad Firdaus Rohaizad, 14, said the programme helps him feel like he has a purpose and that it is "important to talk more about mental health to create more understanding".

Madam Halimah noted that "our society is filled with a lot of ignorance about mental health" due to a lack of conversation about the topic .

She urged the youth present: "Go back to school and do not be afraid to talk about mental health."

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