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Mindset puts spotlight on mental health
"JUST get over it" is a phrase commonly said to people with mental health issues.
It shows the misconception people have about mental health, declares Colyn Chua, programme head at Jardines Mindset, a registered charity of the Jardine Matheson Group.
The 36-year-old said: "It is as though (these patients) have a choice. Mental health issues are not a choice, or a switch which people can turn on or off.
"More often than not, they are caused by changes in brain chemistry, genetics or trauma, to name a few factors. Thus, it is important that these individuals seek help from medical professionals instead of ignoring the problem because of the fear of social stigma."
That stigma is real. A Singapore Mental Health study in 2016 found that while one in seven individuals in Singapore have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, more than three-quarters of them did not seek professional help.
Addressing this widespread unawareness has given Ms Chua a sense of mission at Jardines Mindset, which has, among other things, run a training centre to prepare those with mental health issues for jobs; it as also run a public education campaign urging members of the public to take good care of their mental health.
Jardines Mindset, the programmes of which are backed by leadership and volunteer employees from across the Jardine Matheson Group in Singapore, has four areas of focus: It aims to create awareness of mental health issues, reintegrate persons in recovery back to employment, runs social enterprise projects, and raises and allocates funds.
Ms Chua is continually on the lookout for ways to strengthen the mental health sector in Singapore, and credits the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre's Fellowship programme with providing her with the tools and partnerships to do so.
Company of Good Fellowship is a talent development programme launched in 2017 that grooms high-potential business professionals to catalyse change to benefit both business and society. The programme seeks to develop a community of leaders who will strengthen the ecosystem for doing good in Singapore.
The programme is delivered in 12 sessions over five months, culminating in the presentation of an Action Project which is developed through the course of the programme with personalised guidance from mentors. Upon graduation, each Fellow will implement their Action Project as a CSR initiative back at their organisations.
Quek Shiyun, head, Company of Good, said: "Company of Good Fellowship is a valuable programme to help business and CSR leaders elevate the systems and initiatives of doing good in their organisations. The programme imparts skills and knowledge such as transformative leadership, frameworks for strategic giving and systems thinking, and exposes them to real-world situations involving beneficiary groups and their needs.
"Founded on the ethos that large-scale impact begins with a small step, Company of Good Fellowship seeks to empower corporate individuals to be catalysts of change in their organisation, benefiting both business and society."
So it was the Fellowship that helped Ms Chua take that small step to provide tangible support for Singapore's mental health community through programmes and partnerships with fellow social service agencies.
She said: "The programme was a great platform to gain insights into the corporate-giving sector in Singapore, network with like-minded professionals from other organisations to share best practices and develop potential partnerships."
Jardines Mindset leans on its network of employee volunteers from across the Jardine Matheson Group, who come together to contribute their time, resources and expertise.
Ms Chua said: "I lead the employee volunteers, known as Jardine Ambassadors, to spearhead these initiatives during their volunteering tenure with Mindset."
The Mindset Learning Hub (MLH), Mindset's first flagship project, began in 2016 in collaboration with the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH). It helps recovering patients seek and retain employment.
Since its launch, more than 900 individuals have registered with the centre; nearly 400 have been trained, and more than 200 placed in jobs.
Ms Chua said: "Employment is a key factor in the reintegration of persons-in-recovery back into the community, as it equips them with self-confidence and a sense of dignity."
Jardines Mindset's second flagship project, DigitalMINDSET, is an early-intervention community programme targeting 12- to 21-year-olds with pathological gaming disorders. These individuals often display poor emotional regulation, in that they are prone to anxiety, anger and depressive symptoms.
The programme received more than 500 enquiries in the past year, and more than 70 youths have been registered.
Most recently, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mindset launched the "Covid-19 Community Support Floor Stickers Project", under which stickers with light-hearted messages on mental health were installed in 55 Guardian pharmacy, Giant and Cold Storage supermarket outlets across the island.
In this, it had the support of the NVPC, BusAds, 3M and Splash Production.
"It was important for us to provide such avenues of support to the public in places with high footfall. Covid-19 has amplified the need for us to take good care of our mental health and well-being," said Ms Chua.
Her interest in the social-service sector goes back a long way; her parents had always driven home the importance of helping people in need.
She pursued a degree in social work, and, after four years as a social worker, she joined Jardine Matheson Group in Singapore.
"I had enjoyed my role in the social-service sector throughout my career and involvement. Being a Fellow has furthered this passion … and it has allowed me to learn best practices, generate new ideas from participating Fellows and grow a network of like-minded professionals."
Her cohort of Fellows still exchange ideas and collaborate on new projects.
"This positive energy inspires me and serves as a reminder on why I do what I do."
She finds time management a challenge, especially when too many projects land on her plate, aside from her commitments to the Company of Good Fellowship programme.
"One of the key challenges is having to allocate time from my busy schedule, to not only attend classes, but also design a project with a partnering Fellow.
"It is important for me to have effective time management and prioritise my responsibilities with discipline in order to achieve successes in both the Fellowship programme and my day job."
But she finds that her passion for corporate giving and supporting communities makes it "all worth it and even enjoyable".
Ms Chua said she tries to apply what she picks up in class to the programmes she runs at Jardines Mindset.
For example, she has learned that it is not easy to carry out impact measurement in the social-services sector, because it is not enough to only measure the positive impact of a programme on the individual; the impact on the person's family and even the community has to be factored in as well.
"Since then, I have relooked at how we can perform impact measurements on our activities and initiated conversations with various stakeholders, to ensure that our measurables are kept fair and that we stay accountable to our donors."
She added that participants in the Fellowship programme went on industry visits to learn about various companies' corporate-giving practices and how personalised environments could be carved out within work offices so such initiatives could thrive.
Jardines Mindset was set up in Singapore in 2011, when mental health and illnesses were considered taboo topics.
There are signs, however, that perceptions are turning around. Mental health and wellness have been given more attention recently. The theme of the President's Challenge 2019, a charity drive, was mental health; the pandemic has also put the issue in the spotlight.
When asked what more can be done to highlight the issue and help people with mental health issues, Ms Chua said a multi-pronged approach towards supporting mental health would help.
"On a policy level, having targeted policies to help persons with mental health conditions will provide support to the community, and send a signal that mental health is important and an area of focus.
"On a community level, we should encourage more open conversations on mental health and reduce the stigma attached to persons with mental health issues.
"Traditional media should also avoid portraying persons with mental health issues negatively. It perpetuates the stigma.
"On a corporate level, we encourage companies to start adopting inclusive policies for their employees and provide channels for their employees to seek help."
Jardine Cycle & Carriage, for instance, runs a pilot counselling hotline for its employees who need help. It will also launch mental-health training programmes for managers, so that they can be equipped to support their team members' mental well-being.
Asked what she would like to see changed in the mental health landscape, she said: "October is Mental Health Month. I encourage everyone to start speaking up and being open about their mental health.
"We should continue to raise awareness of mental health to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness and educate people on the importance of mental well-being."
- Company of Good Fellowship is a talent-development programme that grooms high-potential professionals to catalyse change for business and society. Apply at www.companyofgood.sg/fellowship today.