Themed train aims to get family and friends to help those with mental health conditions

A display as part of a mental health awareness campaign by Touch Community Services and Nanyang Polytechnic is seen on a train along the North East Line.
A display as part of a mental health awareness campaign by Touch Community Services and Nanyang Polytechnic is seen on a train along the North East Line.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - When a person has a mental health condition, who can he count on? Family, friends, neighbours and members of the community - at least that is what a campaign involving a specially themed train hopes to encourage.

The themed train, aimed at fighting the social stigma related to mental health, was launched on Monday morning on the North East Line, with commuters greeted by an on-board performance of Bruno Mars' Count On Me.

The brainchild of Touch Community Services, in partnership with Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), the train is scheduled to run 18 hours daily for four weeks, and intended to reach out to some 840,000 commuters, according to Moove Media, SBS Transit's advertising arm. SBS operates the North East Line.

The train features information on anxiety disorder, depression and schizophrenia, such as snippets from people with mental health conditions on how they are affected.

Touch hopes that this will raise awareness of such conditions so that people with the conditions will be more open to talk about them, as well as encourage others to be more willing to help family members and friends with mental health issues.

Students from NYP's School of Health Sciences worked with Touch to come up with the train's design.

NYP students had also shortlisted the three conditions due to a perceived lack of public awareness on them.

Mr Desmond Choo, Mayor of North East Community Development Council (CDC) launched the train at HarbourFront MRT station with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Mr Choo said he hopes this train with its information on mental health issues will start conversations and bring about awareness.

He said: "Mental health tends to be under reported and understated. It is like any other illness and with help it is manageable and should not be stigmatised."

As a part of the campaign, Touch will also hold a mental awareness night run called the Light of Hope Run on Sept 30 at Gardens by the Bay.

A volunteer with Touch, project manager Linnette Sung, said that awareness on mental health conditions can make a difference.

Ms Sung, 29, was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder about 10 years ago.

She said that at the time, a lack of awareness surrounding mental health meant people like her were afraid to talk about their illness.

"I felt so alone and I did not know where to seek help or who to go to," she said.

Ms Sung added that she was lucky she had strong family support but was still hesitant to talk about it to friends.

"The only information you would get back then is what you could find on Google. But through awareness efforts such as this (the themed train), we are out there telling people that they are not alone and that they can talk about their mental health," she said.