President urges youth not to fear talking about mental health

President Halimah Yacob speaking to participants of the forum theatre performance at the Singapore Association for Mental Health's Creative SAY centre in Woodlands yesterday.
President Halimah Yacob speaking to participants of the forum theatre performance at the Singapore Association for Mental Health's Creative SAY centre in Woodlands yesterday.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

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

Yesterday, the first-year applied drama and psychology student from Singapore Polytechnic was joined by two of her course mates for a special forum theatre performance at the Singapore Association for Mental Health'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 of mental health, which is a focus of this year's President's Challenge - an annual community outreach and fund-raising campaign.

The centre, whose initials stand for sports, arts and youth, 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.

Yesterday'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.

Jaymie said forum theatre, where spectators are allowed to interact with 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.

 
 

MORE ACCESSIBILITY NEEDED

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

PRESIDENT HALIMAH YACOB, on how the issue of mental health has to be tackled through a multi-pronged approach.

"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 multi-pronged 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 added.

One of the students who regularly attend sessions at the centre is Muhammad Firdaus Rohaizad, 14.

The Secondary 3 student said the programme helps him feel he has a purpose and it is "important to talk more about mental health to create more understanding".

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

"Ignorance leads to fear, which develops into a stigma," she added.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2019, with the headline 'President urges youth not to fear talking about mental health'. Print Edition | Subscribe