IMPACT 0304: NURSING OUR MINDS BACK TO HEALTH: AWARENESS FOR MENTAL WELL-BEING IN SINGAPORE
Lua Ser Ning, 22, is a fourth-year nursing student at NUS. Besides caring for her patients, she also is an active member of the school community and an advocate for mental health. In 2019, she wrote an article for TodayOnline to share about her personal experience of helping her friend cope with depression. Today she answers some questions for us.
Tell us more about what you do!
I have been serving the school community through the Nursing Sub-Club for the past three years. We organise events and activities to create a vibrant school experience for nursing students. During the height of the pandemic, we launched the first iteration of Wellness Day (now renamed as WellNUrSe Festival), where students can sign up for virtual classes on terrarium making, canvas bag painting and leather crafting.
Back in 2019, I also wrote to TodayOnline to share about the importance of mental wellbeing, and how we can fight mental health stigma. I was then given an opportunity to write about my personal experience of helping my friend cope with depression in Today’s “Gen Y Speaks” column. I hope that my opinion piece could, in some small way, shed light on the importance of mental well-being, normalise mental health issues, and encourage more people to be there for others in their mental health journey.
What inspires or motivates you to do this?
Growing up, I had classmates who struggled with mental health. Yet, nobody really talked about it, and even if we did, we were quick to brush it off with “he’s just sad”, “she’s just stressed” or “everyone has it the same”.
In university, I took modules in psychology and mental health, which made me realise that there is so much that people do not know about mental health issues. When I went through the mental health journey with my friend, which I shared about in the “Gen Y Speaks” article, I learnt that no matter what the circumstances are, we need people to understand us and cheer us on. We never know the impact we can have on someone else.
I first decided to serve the school community because I thought of it as a platform to socialise and develop soft skills. However, my continued decision to serve stemmed from my realisation that I can contribute to shaping a vibrant school life for my peers, even when lessons were largely virtual due to COVID-19. I saw the potential and value in the events and activities that we were organising to help students reduce boredom and stress while being mentally productive.
Have you faced any challenges so far? And how did you overcome them?
At times, I have experienced burnout, especially when trying to juggle everything on my plate and still be emotionally available to hold space for friends in need. So, I always try to take breaks and do things I enjoy. I often reflect on myself and the situations I am in, and try to regulate my own emotions. I also seek support and encouragement from my family and friends.
If you could share one piece of advice with your fellow youth, what would it be?
For fellow youth struggling with your mental health, I hope you know that your feelings are valid. Talk to someone you trust and let them embark on your mental health journey with you.
For those who are journeying with someone on their mental health journey, understand that it is not as straightforward or as easy as it seems to “snap out of it”. Be patient and seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Try your best to focus on connecting and comprehending, instead of offering them a myriad of solutions.
However, also remember that you are never alone – so seek help from professionals or other trusted friends if you think you are unable to handle it alone.
What are your hopes or plans for the future? What do you want to see or perhaps do?
In the future, I hope that as a society, we can normalise mental health issues by talking more about them, sharing our experiences, and helping others. COVID-19 has shed light on mental health needs, and we have since taken the first step to developing better mental health guidelines and practices in schools and workplaces. However, we need to continually empower our society to be well-equipped with the skills to listen, understand and empathise with others.
In addition, as our population ages, I hope that there will be policies for mandatory routine mental health screening for the elderly so that we can flag out those at risk and offer timely mental health support.