IMPACT 0412: TAKING A STAND FOR THE MENTAL HEALTH OF THE NEXT GENERATION
Karen Lee, 24, works at CampusImpact, a social service agency that supports children and families from disadvantaged communities. She often connects with youth-at-risk and low-income families through community programmes and research work. Beyond her job scope, Karen is a mental health advocate who is keen to explore the quality, accessibility and affordability of mental health services in Singapore. Today, she brings us deeper into her journey and passions!
Tell us more about what you do!
I often run volunteer programmes for children or youth to engage them meaningfully through education, enrichment and character development opportunities. For example, I run a volunteering tuition programme for children who come from low-income families.
I also conduct research for my organisation’s programmes. In my research work, I hope to generate insights on how effective our programmes are in serving our clients, and to identify any areas of improvement in our programme execution.
Outside of work, I am a mental health advocate. My advocacy is focused on the individual and systemic level. Firstly, I advocate for healthy mental health discourse, in which I believe is the first step in reducing mental health stigma as one can share their vulnerabilities in a courageous and non-judgmental way. As such, I engage in self-disclosure about my personal lived experiences with depression and anxiety to those around me.
You can check out @spectrum.nus, a mental health initiative that I co-founded while in university. I am also keen on studying the accessibility, quality, and affordability of mental health care in Singapore. As such, I am thankful to be able to learn more about the topic through my work at @sgmentalhealthmatters, as well as in my work as a legislative assistant for a Member of Parliament.
What inspires you to do what you do?
My advocacy is most inspired by my work on the ground. From my early experiences as a volunteer, I have learnt to better empathise and hold space for those I’ve connected with. From exchanging personal stories and having compassion for each other’s experiences, I eventually found the drive to speak up bravely for the misunderstood and unheard.
Have you faced any challenges so far? How did you overcome them?
When working with children and families, I often struggle with accepting the different realities that my clients live in. This comes with heartbreak, disappointment and compassion fatigue. I have learnt to overcome this by learning how to process my emotions while reorienting myself to be in a better position to sit in with the emotions of others as we build deeper connections. Having work life boundaries is very useful for my work too.
In addition, I often feel discouraged about the “slow” outcomes of advocacy. However, I have learnt to be patient by reminding myself that I just have to do whatever I can within my own capacity and that change will eventually happen.
If you could share one piece of advice with your fellow youth, what would it be?
In Maya Angelou’s words, “Like a tree planted by the river, I shall not be moved.”
What are your hopes or plans for the future? What do you want to see or perhaps do?
I hope to share deeper connections with the people I work with, to widen my knowledge and expertise to serve others better. In the far future ahead, I hope to do a Master’s in Clinical Psychology, Counselling or Social Work, and maybe even start my own ground-up initiative to give back to more people.