“If you could have any superpower, which one would you want, and why?”
This was a question that I was once asked, during some ice-breaker games in my community.
After a moment I replied, “I would like to have the power to heal people who are experiencing mental health issues”.
At that point in my life, I had just been diagnosed with gout, a form of arthritis caused by excessive uric acid in the bloodstream. My gout attacks were extremely painful, and when I had a ‘flare-up’, I could not sleep at night. It was a miserable time for me.
You might be wondering, “What has this got to do with wanting to heal people with mental illness?” You see, my friend had just been diagnosed with depression. I saw how her situation was much more challenging than mine.
For me, I could see the joint inflammation and know my uric acid levels through a blood test. When I explained my illness to other people, they could understand it easily, and showed concern and acceptance. In my friend’s case, it was not so straightforward. People did not quite understand. In some cases, they were angry at her, brushed her condition aside, or asked her to just “snap out of it”.
Much has been done in recent years to address the stigma often associated with mental health issues. I am grateful that there are greater awareness and support for mental health issues in Singapore today. The Government is doing more to care for the mental well-being of Singaporeans with the setup of a mental wellness task force and 24-hour National CARE Hotline. Plans are also underway to publish an advisory to help employers improve their staff’s mental well-being. There are now even mobile apps that help people work on their mental health anytime and anywhere.
With one in seven Singaporeans experiencing a form of mental disorder in our lifetime, the issues are real and very close to home. With all these efforts and many more, I know that there is hope for a more understanding, compassionate, and supportive Singapore in the future.
Is there a place in Singapore for a superhero who heals mental illness? I believe that everyone can be a hero for mental health, without needing superpowers. Will you join me?
Here are seven things that I pledge to do:
- Learn more about mental health and the recovery process
- Be available and present to people around me—whether friends, family, or colleagues
- Listen without judgement, be respectful, and supportive
- Seek to understand and offer hope
- Encourage seeking and sustaining further support
- Pray for everyone to have good mental health
- Practice self-care and love myself
If you are wondering about my friend, she is much better now. Her recovery began when she asked for help. She has received love and support from her family, friends, and all the heroes in the mental health services.
- Mental health anti-stigma campaign back for 3rd year (ST, 25 Sep 2020)
- Parliament: Advisory to help employers improve their staff’s mental well-being to be published by end-2020 (ST, 6 Oct 2020)
- COVID-19 impact on mental health must be managed, as more people face stress and disruption: PM Lee (CNA, 11 Oct 2020)
- World Mental Health Day: She created an app to provide on-demand counselling
Kelvin Lim is a husband, a father of an active and lively 19-month-old daughter, and a Programme Executive Trainee at Caritas Singapore. His favourite book is “Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World” by Henri J. M. Nouwen.