infograph: mental illness and the brain

Mental illness and the brain


a mental illness advocate afraid of stigma

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.

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mental illness in the sims 4 [#blog4mh]

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.

Read more…

(I just wanted to show off my pretty Sim in the image)


sparx: a game that combats depression – #blog4mh

This post is a continuation of Gaming: The underused depression rehabilitation resourcewhere 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.

Continue reading “sparx: a game that combats depression – #blog4mh”

walking away from someone with mental illness [#blog4mh]


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.

launching the mental health blog community – 20/04/2017

[UPDATE] The site is up and running –

Not too long ago, I decided to start a project – to create a site whereby Singaporeans can find available resources and have open discussions regarding mental health. Today, I have six individuals working on the site with me, and it was them who came up with the title – Winding Through The Willows.

What sets this site apart from other mental health blogs

This blog doesn’t just look at recounts of experiences with mental illness, which most mental health blogs do. Instead, recounts and opinion pieces are merely categories.

Other categories we have (for now)

Resources: Organisations, downloadable content, events, mobile game applications, etc.

Coping: Sharing of (healthy) coping mechanisms, and readers can even submit relevant pictures (e.g. a pet, a painting, a location).

Informative: Mental health and illness are explained in layman terms here, and news related to the topic will be posted. Risk factors will also be discussed. All content in this category are required to be backed up with at least one credible source.

The site’s official launch date is 20th April 2017.

Continue reading “launching the mental health blog community – 20/04/2017”

starting a mental health blog community

I was thinking of creating a community of (but not exclusively) mental health (MH) bloggers. Its focus will be on Singapore, but international writers and contributors are welcome. A new MH blog will be created together as a group. Writers remain the rightful owners of their work – they can submit old posts from their own blogs, and they still own the rights to their work after submission. There is the option to stay anonymous. Contributors can be anyone, from professionals and caregivers to individuals with psychiatric conditions.

The aim of this project is increasing MH literacy in Singapore – helping people understand MH and mental illnesses; let people know of resources available, and where (and when) to seek professional help – and support – letting others know that they are not alone.

I have a few ideas in my head, and I’d like to brainstorm with those who are interested in such a communal MH blog. I’m not only looking for MH bloggers, and not everyone involved in the brainstorming process will have to write for the blog.

Note that, right now, I only have a very brief and general idea of what I (think) I want for this project, and I don’t know if it will even be executed. Do drop me an email or leave a comment if you’d like to be a part of this, or just want to give some input. 

self-harm awareness month

Self-harm seems to have an increasing prevalence rate amongst youths. Yet, it is misunderstood and often dismissed as attention-seeking behaviour. The most talked about self-harm method is cutting. Individuals who use other means of self-harm are then neglected, because nobody looks for the signs of self-harm other than cutting, which is what I’ll be writing about.

Before reading any further, I’d like to declare a trigger warning for the readers who have a history of self-harm.

Risk factors

There are many things that could drive someone to self-harm, but certain risk factors include sexual abuse, emotional neglect, and insecure attachment1. Much like drugs and alcohol, tolerance levels go up, and the severity and/or frequency is increased in order to feel the release of tension. As the individual becomes more dependent on self-harm, it becomes the only coping strategy that they know. Hence, a history with self-harm definitely increases one’s likelihood to self-harm (again).

You might imagine that a person would resort to self-mutilation only under extremes of duress, but once I’d crossed that line the first time, taken that fateful step off the precipice, then almost any reason was a good enough reason, almost any provocation was provocation enough. Cutting was my all-purpose solution.”
Caroline Kettlewell, Skin Game

Forms of self-harm

This is an extremely non-comprehensive list, but there are things like hitting, scratching, hair-pulling, skin tearing, burning, suffocation.

Symptoms of the other forms of self-harm?2, 3

  • Fresh cuts, scratches, bruises or other wounds
  • Excessive rubbing of an area to create a burn
  • Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather
  • Difficulties in interpersonal relationships
  • Behavioral and emotional instability, impulsivity and unpredictability
  • Statements of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Signs of depression
  • Talk about needing to punish him/herself
  • Low self-esteem

Self-harm and suicide? 2,3

Self-harmers are not necessarily suicidal. In fact, they could very well be the opposite – they want to live, and therefore they self-harm in order to cope with life. That being said, self-harm is not something to be taken lightly. Accidents happen (e.g. cutting too deep), and if there is no intervention, the individual might end up being caught in a cycle that goes something like this – feeling like you need to be punished > self-harm > need to be punished for self-harm/am weak for self-harming.

Seeking treatment for self-harm in Singapore

Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT) – get a mental health check and referral(s)

YouthReach Centre, Singapore Association of Mental Health (SAMH) – 6593 6424; <18 yrs old

Singapore Counselling Centre – 6339 5411

Click here for a list of helplines compiled by National Council of Social Service.

  1. Risk factors for deliberate self-harm among college students.
    Gratz, Kim L.; Conrad, Sheree Dukes; Roemer, Lizabeth
    American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Vol 72(1), Jan 2002, 128-140.

when your life revolves around a sick loved one

Training for the caregiver-to-caregiver (C2C) course with Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL) teaches me something new every lesson. One of them that caregivers often lose themselves as their life revolves around nothing but their sick loved ones.

Every first lesson, caregivers are paired up, they tell each other things about themselves, and then they share with the class things their partner told them, and vice versa. What I have noticed is that everybody talked about their loved ones, and discussed nothing about themselves. It seems like these caregivers have forgotten themselves; they have taken on the role of a caregiver, abandoning their identity in the process because their lives revolve around their loved one and nothing more.

While it is undeniable that the loved one plays a major role in the caregiver’s life, the caregiver is so much more than just a caregiver. (S)he is a child, a spouse, a friend, a parent, a dreamer, a painter, a musician… The list goes on. It is sad to see people neglecting themselves in the process of caring for their loved ones.

The well-being of caregivers become insignificant because they are only concerned about the well-being of their loved ones. This is honourable and a great sacrifice, but also damaging in the long run. A caregiver whose life revolves around the loved one might face burnout from the overwhelming stress without an outlet. This then prevents the caregiver from being the best caregiver (s)he can be, affecting the loved one greatly.