Photo credit: HENRY QI

IMPACT 0580: NORMALISING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

Youth Action Challenge (YAC) is a platform for youth to provide solutions that tackle the issues we are concerned about. Since October 2021, over 80 teams and more than 310 youths have undertaken the YAC Season 3 journey.

Henry Qi, 27, is currently working as a physiotherapist in the public healthcare sector in Singapore. In his line of work, he frequently interacts with elderly patients who have unexpectedly become unwell. By understanding the way they struggle to move about in their daily life, he guides them with the right types and recommended amounts of exercise, in hopes that they can go about with their life a bit better than before.

He recently joined Season 3 of the YAC, under project LAGOM. LAGOM aims to normalise and reframe how psychiatric illness among healthcare workers is viewed – that it should be treated with the gravity of any other medical condition, and not as a character flaw or a sign of weakness. Today, Henry shares more about the project he embarked on.

What was your role within your YAC project?

My role in LAGOM was greatly different from my day-to-day job scope. While I  assess and treat physical impairments at work, my volunteer ventures with LAGOM in the evenings extend into the more invisible realm of mental health; I spearhead the research aspect of discourse on mental wellbeing practices, specifically for healthcare professionals. Our focus is on mental health for doctors, nurses, and all other allied health professionals.

What motivated you to join YAC?

When I first started working in Singapore’s public healthcare back in 2020, I was shocked at how little mental health is understood and how deprioritised it was, even in the workplace where mental health should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. The notion that even we healthcare professionals were ignorant of our own mental wellbeing needs was simply unacceptable, and I felt motivated to change this.

Youths of Singapore are highly passionate, albeit ignorant, about the ongoings of our  society. Nonetheless, they remain the spark and fuel of our country’s future. It would be considered a grave injustice if we pass Singapore’s burning torch onto the next generation of healthcare professionals-to-be without acknowledging and elucidating how deep the talons of mental health neglect have a grip on the collective spirits of healthcare workers of this generation.

Can you share with us your experience with your YAC project?

Taking on full-time employment in Singapore’s healthcare system while completing tasks  that are required of YAC has been nothing short of exhausting and fulfilling. Even the  weekends have now become great opportunities for growth in aspects other than physiotherapy skills.

I’m moving forward with the many lessons I’ve taken from YAC, steadfast and steady. I’ve been challenged in many ways this season, such as my understanding of the models of sustainable business practices, my interpersonal networking skills, and my commitment to tackling a social issue that I’m passionate about.

What are some challenges you faced while working on your YAC project?

One of the challenges that I faced was that there was never enough time. I had to cram a lot of new information about business models and other lessons from the YAC masterclasses within a short span of time in order to quickly utilise them for our project!

Could you share more on how your project has a positive impact?

I remember it was a Wednesday night. We had just published social media content on schizophrenia and its defining traits. While I was getting on with my routine preparations for work the next day, I received a text from Vyshnavi, the leader of our YAC project. She excitedly shared a conversation with a stranger on the Internet, who had reached out through our Instagram handle to let us know how much more aware she was becoming of herself and her psyche after reading our posts.

I remember distinctly the goosebumps I had as I read about how this lady shared that she felt like she understood herself for the very first time, and how it motivated her to seek for a therapist as well.

Were there any key takeaways or learning points from your time with YAC?

Creating impact takes way more than just a passion to want to change things. There are clear strategic considerations that go into a sustainable plan to change things. Consistency in delivering results requires keeping too many small, but manageable commitments.

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