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]

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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 – http://throughthewillows.com

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”

someone is creating accounts in my name

As the title says, someone has been creating accounts in my name and with my email address. Woke up, had three emails from a LGBT dating site/mobile application, tried to go to the site to log in, got this:

This page is currently offline. However, because the site uses Cloudflare’s Always Online™ technology you can continue to surf a snapshot of the site. We will keep checking in the background and, as soon as the site comes back, you will automatically be served the live version.

Just putting it out there that not all of “my” accounts and online profiles are really me.

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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0002-9432.72.1.128
  2. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/self-injury/symptoms-causes/dxc-20165427
  3. http://www.livescience.com/11043-teens-hurt-science-injury.html

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.

anxiety is a gender identity now?

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Just a few months ago, I was writing about how I had unconsciously let my illness become my identity, and how damaging it was. Having had anxiety and depression throughout the ages whereby humans develop their identity, it got to the point whereby I was apprehensive about working towards recovery because I had no idea who I was without illness.

Imagine my horror when I chanced upon this screenshot on reddit one day.

This individual has let anxiety become an identity that is “only to be used by people with anxiety disorders” – essentially, identifying as Anxiety. Not only has that person built an identity around the illness, the person has essentially become the illness. This is most likely going to hinder the individual’s healing process, if it doesn’t just bring it to a complete halt.

Your identity isn’t something you work towards recovering from, but anxiety can be. Note that I’m not saying cure, but recover. It’s possible, but I highly doubt it is if you have deliberately fused yourself and anxiety together as such.

— Relevant reads —

Defintions related to sexual orientation and gender diversity in APA documents

Finding yourself: How a weak sense of self could contribute to a person’s depression