Imagine this: you stayed up until 4 a.m. to rush something for a deadline, and you get up at 6 — a mere 2 hours later — to get ready for the day. Your head is clouded, your limbs are heavy, and there’s an invisible force keeping you pinned to the bed. You’re disoriented, floating above your physical body, and you want nothing more than to just spend the rest of the day doing absolutely nothing. That’s what having a mental illness can feel like, except that feeling persists throughout the entire day, almost every day.
In the way humans are all unique and unprecedented, everyone experiences mental illnesses differently. Some’s symptoms manifest externally, while some people’s are completely internal: however they cope with the things they’re going through, their struggles are all very real. Unfortunately, in a conservative Asian society, conversations about mental illness are often silenced, dismissed and treated like taboo. In order to build a happier, more fulfilled community for every single person that lives in it, we must become more humane, more open to listening instead of trying to get everyone to run towards the same unattainable goals. The first step to take in this direction, is to understand, to see a situation in a light we never have before.
5 MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT COMMON MENTAL DISORDERS:
1. Depression means you’re always sad.
Depression is characterized by feelings of irritability, guilt, worthlessness, indecisiveness and decreased interest or pleasure in most activities. Symptoms are present most of the day, nearly every day. People diagnosed with depression are able to feel happiness, excitement, and pleasure as much as anyone else, since depression is caused by an imbalance of chemicals like serotonin, not a deficiency.
2. Anxiety means you can’t speak in public.
Anxiety disorders are a spectrum of disorders, including social phobia, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. While some people suffering from anxiety do have a fear of speaking in public, the general symptoms that span over all anxiety disorders centre around excessive, irrational fear and dread.
3. Liking your things neat and orderly means you have OCD.
Persons with OCD are plagued by obsessions that lead to anxiety, and develop repetitive acts or compulsions to alleviate the anxiety. Performing these acts are not pleasurable, and cause major disruptions to the person’s daily life as they are consumed by their obsessive thoughts.
4. If you have constant mood swings, you have bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycles of manic/hypomanic and depressive episodes, which last between 4 days to a week each, and the cycles can last for months. Unlike mood swings, mood changes in bipolar disorder are severe, persistent and significantly impair the individual’s ability to function in society.
5. If someone is skinny, they’re anorexic.
Anorexia is a mental condition that leads to avoidant and restrictive eating, but is not necessarily tied to a specific body type. Someone with anorexia has intense fear of gaining weight, but can appear very thin, healthy weighted or above healthy weight.
Sickness of the mind is as detrimental as a sickness of the body. The brain is an organ, and if you were to analogise it, mental illnesses are like intangible tumours. Some are benign and we can learn to live with, but some are malignant and if not treated, will grow to impair other functions and lead to unthinkable consequences.
Having a mental disorder can be extremely scary, and leave one feeling isolated and lonely. However, due to the stigmatisation of it in Asian societies, many people do not seek out the help that they need. Research has shown that only less than a third of people with mental illnesses seek help. This is due to how generations of parents and educators have told children that they can recover if they want to, that mental health issues hint at personal weaknesses, and people who suffer from them are unpredictable and unstable.
As a society, we need to be better. Mental health is a state of well-being. When there is a marked departure from baseline psychosocial functioning, it results in unrealised potential, low productivity and contribution levels, as well as developing maladaptive coping mechanisms. As a society, we need to care, we need to listen, and we need to make them feel seen. Only then, can our society flourish even further, creating a loving community and safe space for every single citizen.
We understand that seeking help in Singapore can be terrifying, because of the costs and people’s potential judgements. Here are 5 places in Singapore where you can start on your journey to recovery and wellness.
5 PLACES YOU CAN GET HELP FOR YOURSELF OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE:
1. PSALT Care
PSALT hosts various peer support groups, psychoeducation talks and workshops to strengthen and sustain the recovery of those suffering from mental health conditions such as depression , addictions and bipolar disorder.
3. Singapore Association for Mental Health
SAMH provides rehabilitative, outreach, and creative services and programmes to persons with mental health issues, helping them recover and reintegrate back into the community. They are also dedicated to raising public awareness about mental well-being and resilience, as well as reducing the social stigma, and promoting acceptance and respect for persons with mental health issues.
4. Samaritans of Singapore
Samaritans of Singapore runs a 24-hour hotline that provides round the clock emotional support for those in distress, as well as a messaging and email service for those who prefer to write in for help. They organise follow-ups, support groups, as well as counselling and outreach programmes to suicide risk individuals, suicide survivors and those who have lost a loved one to suicide. They also conduct community outreach projects, campaigns and collaborations to address suicide in a sensitive, responsible and intuitive manner, so that those in distress aren’t afraid of being connected to the resources they require.
SOS number: 1800–221 4444
“Anything that is human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”
― Fred Rogers