Fifteen-year-olds here experience more bullying than their peers in 50 other countries and economies, and only the children of Latvia and New Zealand have it worse, said a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Singapore also had 14.5 per cent of students who described being frequently bullied, compared with the OECD average of 8.9 per cent.
The Straits Times – Yuen Sin
On 6th December 2016, the results of the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) was published. Over half a million 15-year olds from 72 countries are tested in order to assess the education system. Here are some facts about Singapore that stood out to me:
Our education system undoubtedly produces high-scoring students. However, it also produces high bullying rates. It is unrealistic to expect absolutely no bullying, but it definitely should not be this high. Chances are, you know somebody who has been bullied and did not receive appropriate support from the school. The bullies were then left with a slap on the wrist and nothing more. This brings into question the priorities of Singapore’s education system. The government, of course, promises efforts to reduce bullying.
In 2014, in a parliamentary reply titled Zero Tolerance Towards Bullying in Schools, the Ministry of Education (MOE) claims that they “do not tolerate bullying in any form, and schools have in place a system and measures to support a safe, conducive environment for learning (…) schools will take immediate action to investigate and assess all reported cases.”
It sounds like a lot effort is put into preventing bullying, but there are no results. From the very start of life as a student, the focus is on results – students are taught that academic results supersede any other needs they may have. A conducive environment, to teachers, is a quiet one. A good school isn’t one with a healthy environment, but one that produces top scoring students. I have even heard of students bullied by teachers, be it mockery, degradation, or threats.
There are teachers who genuinely care about their students’ wellbeing, and I have had the privilege of meeting some of them. Unfortunately, the majority of teachers I have encountered see troubled students as a cumbersome part of their job and nothing more. Anything that happens outside the classroom doesn’t matter, as long as there are good results.
I wonder, and worry, about what will become of Singapore’s schools in the future. Will top scoring students be pardoned from bullying? Will bullying simply become “part and parcel” of growing up, or a rite of sorts?
Yet another Caregiver-to-Caregiver (C2C) class is coming to an end, and it truly is bittersweet. I quickly bonded with class members, many of whom were parents. I learned a lot more about their tribulations and their journey as both a parent and a caregiver. Unexpectedly, I learned so much about myself, which I never would’ve learned otherwise. Some see it as a sensitive topic when they want to ask about my experience with mental illness, but honestly, I like it. Apart from just offering a different perspective, sharing with them my experience and answering questions forces me to reflect on my past. Moving on, these are the two most important things I have learned:
My understanding of the concept of recovery is similar to a particular member of the class. I was never able to put it into words, but she did it brilliantly – recovery is a commitment, not a stage in life or an end goal like a lot of people believe it to be. I shan’t speak too much of it since it isn’t my idea, but I’ll talk to her and see if she’d like to add on.
A few times during class, I have started sentences with, “Me seven years ago would hate me for telling you this”. In the past, I never would’ve thought I’d be where I am today, saying these things. Not because I didn’t think I’d be able to go so far, but because I didn’t think I’d be able to sink that low and commit such acts of betrayal.
In the past, I had a soft toy which I cut a small slit in to hide my blades. I had a false base in a box to stash blades. I was part of an exclusive community of self-harmers on the Internet, where all my people were. We tried to help each other but often ended up sinking together. All it would take is one member to fall and, because we’re all holding hands, we’d fall together.
Today, I’m speaking to caregivers and revealing the “trade secrets“. I’m sharing potential hiding spots and signs to look out for. I tell them about the existence and possible dangers of the self-harm community. Everything I’m doing today betrays the secret community I once sought refuge in; it violates all the rules within the community. It’s definitely disloyal to act as such, and I sometimes question whether or not I should be doing this at all, but I know it should be done.
First published 25/07/17 on The Mental Health Repository
I talk about mental health, seemingly openly. People commend me on my “bravery”. The truth, however, is that the fear of stigma sits on my shoulders. I’m not afraid of the impact it will have on my personal social life (e.g. personal relationships). Rather, I’m afraid of the impact it will have on my professional life. I intend to work in the mental health sector, and I always declare mental illness (albeit reluctantly at times). I have been rejected on the spot because of it before, and it felt absolutely terrible. It is understandable that organisations want to reduce the risks they take, and are just protecting themselves, but it doesn’t make me feel any better.
An interviewer today asked me a question I had never been posed before – what I thought my greatest challenge would be when working. At first, my mind blanked. And then, I realised that it would be trying to convince people that, despite my past, I am competent nonetheless. The interviewer was empathetic and rather encouraging about speaking up about mental health, which felt nice.
I believe that my history gives me an advantage when it comes to working in the mental health sector because nobody who has not experienced mental illness can imagine the trauma. Each case of mental illness is unique, but I am one step closer to being able to relate to them, and vice versa, than most others.
I Hate Everything About You – Three Days Grace.
Love The Way You Lie – Eminem.
I Miss The Misery – Halestorm.
These are songs I’ve listened to on repeat and sung along to (if it can even be called singing). However, they revolve around a common theme – toxic relationships. There’s also Take Me to Church by Hozier, but my disdain towards that song deserves a post of its own.
These songs are on mainstream radio (okay, maybe not Halestorm) for individuals of all ages to hear. As humans, we are subject to our behaviour being affected by those around us to a certain extent, whether we’re aware of it or how mentally resilient we think we are. Call it whatever you want – priming, peer pressure, social learning, etc. – it doesn’t change the fact that this phenomenon exists.
We know that, generally, youths and children are exceptionally impressionable. Today, they often rely on the media to learn about the world around them, where they may find songs that “normalise” abusive relationships, perhaps even encourage such relationships because they’re so full of passion, and promote the idea that staying in abusive relationships is a testament of love. They may find themselves in toxic relationships, and they don’t know the magnitude of the consequences or what to do next.
I’m not suggesting that these songs are removed from mainstream media. Rather, there should be more material raising awareness about the damage that abusive relationships have. Sure, these songs talk about how horrible it feels, but they do not do justice to the damage that an abusive relationship will cause. It will take its toll on both the parties’ entire lives, such as their careers, social interaction, and even mental and physical health.
I shall end this post abruptly here, because I want to get back to my chocolate bar (thanks, sister!) and go to bed.
For simmers everywhere, making the perfect Sim is always fun – you get to customise appearance, voice, personality, clothing, and aspirations, all of which will affect the way your Sims behave. Something that has been rising in popularity in the mod market allows you to give your Sim traits related to mental illness. In January, I chanced upon Depressed Trait by saphryn and, of course, gave it to the Sim I named after myself. A few days ago, I found several more similar mods. I downloaded Social Anxiety Disorder – Trait by iridescentlaura and Bipolar Trait by emile20 and got to playing. They are absolutely brilliant (in retrospect, I should not have started with a household of three Sims, each with social anxiety, bipolar I, or depression).
It is difficult for individuals who have never experienced mental illness to empathise with those who live with it on a daily basis. Perhaps, with such mods, it could make it easier for mental illness to be understood, and give individuals a rough idea of just how frustrating living with mental illness can be.
(I just wanted to show off my pretty Sim in the image)
This post is a continuation of Gaming: The underused depression rehabilitation resource, where I talked about games with hidden therapeutic value, namely Stardew Valley and Pokémon Go.
If you have not read the first post (or you’re too lazy to read), you can find a summary of the two posts together here. If you’d like to read the whole paper which includes the full content of both posts (~700 words) and proper references, you can click here.
Sometimes we have to take a step back when a relationship is too harmful. This is an unavailable option for many caregivers but, when it comes to other relationships, walking away is sometimes the best option. We have to remember we are not doctors or professionals (well, most of us aren’t) – it is not our responsibility, or within anybody’s capability, to “fix” the person.
We are human – every “I’ll be here for you” has its own conditions, and we all have a limit as to how far we’d go for someone. It’s easy to promise unconditional and eternal love, but what happens when the person changes? What if the person becomes abusive? What if the person goes out of his/her way to hurt you? What if the person simply doesn’t seem there at all? All relationships come with (usually unspoken) agreements and, when breached, is inevitably affected.
I cannot fathom just how painful it is to walk away from someone you have a strong and lasting relationship with, let alone an intimate one. First, there are issues such as guilt – you have to back out on someone whom you care about, and you know it will hurt him/her; you fear that this decision ends with you having the person’s blood on your hands. Next, you have to think about how you want to end this relationship. Do you slowly fade out? Do you one day disappear? What if the person refuses to let you go? All this requires careful consideration and assessment of both of your mental states, coping ability, and situation.
The consequences of not walking away can be harmful to the both of you. You may end up causing more harm staying than if you walked away. You may end up pushing yourself past your breaking point, causing harm once more. Your frustration may build slowly, making the relationship more strenuous. Dragging out this unhealthy relationship is, well, unhealthy. All this can affect you psychologically, socially, and even physically.
There is no easy answer to this dilemma, but it is something that, at some point during a relationship of any nature, may be considered, even if just for a few minutes and that’s okay – it doesn’t make you a bad person.
First posted on The Mental Health Repository: Winding Through The Willows.