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”

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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

 

justifying the fear and exclusion of the mentally ill

c191z-buaaelhkaMy first reaction upon seeing this post last week was that yes, it is absolutely true, and I was rather peeved about it. However, after thinking about it for awhile, I wonder if people’s reaction to such symptoms are justified.

When those with mental illnesses are relatively “normal”and able to function (more or less), displaying only the more “passive” symptoms, people are usually fine around them. They treat them like just another person, knowing full well (s)he has a condition.

However, once other symptoms show themselves, be it panic attacks, breakdowns, psychotic episodes, or anything that seems to be getting out of hand, those people are left alone and avoided, because they are one of the Crazies now.

I wonder if we can really blame them for reacting as such. People’s fear of mental illness is, more often than not, attributed to the media and ignorance. Stigma of mental illness in television has been an issue addressed by researchers from as early as 1989 (maybe earlier). This issue of the twisted portrayal of mental illness in media has only been getting more rampant, which I shall not discuss in this post.

However, what just dawned upon me (yeah it took me awhile to think of this) is that these people may be protecting themselves. Granted, not all those who are mentally ill are dangerous. However, some really are, and people do not know who are dangerous and who aren’t. The same way not everyone on the Internet wants to murder/rob/stalk you, it makes good sense not to publish your house address online.

Should we, then, really blame people for avoiding and excluding the mentally ill when they’re only trying to protect themselves?

the romanticising of romance and illness

Gerry and Hillary of P.S: I Love You; Augustus and Hazel of The Fault in Our Stars; Jamie and Shane of A Walk to Remember. Beautiful, tear-jerking romance novels and films that I admit I enjoyed. However, I realise one thing – the love portrayed in such stories are extremely romanticised. Even in songs such as The Way She Feels by Between The Trees portray love to be something that can save you or magically cure all your hurts.

Looking through the Internet, it seems that youths have a warped perception of love and relationships. For instance, a good relationship to them is one that encounters no pitfalls. A good relationship has no arguments (or arguments that are resolved with a romantic gesture). When this doesn’t happen, the couple falls apart, leaving both parties hurt and damaged. What irks me the most, however, is the portrayal of love which miraculously saves you.

People end up waiting for someone to come along and rescue them, be it from family issues, depression, etc. The sense of responsibility over one’s own issues is gone, and is shoved to whoever says “I love you” or “I’m here for you”. What’s even worse is the romanticing of illness.

Youths are presented with more and more love stories that end with one individual saving his/her partner:

He leans down to comfort her
She is weeping and he
Wraps his arms around
And around and around and…
(…)
She opened her eyes
And found relief in his life
And put down her knives

-Between The Trees

wake-the-fuck-up-depression-is-not-special-anxiety-is-1121933.png

Yes, having someone there with you could make things better, but nobody can save you. You have to save yourself because nobody else can do it for you, even if they wanted to. The illusion of being rescued will not last. That said, you cannot save someone else. You can assist the person and prevent suicides and self-harm, but you can never magically fix the person.

Your partner is not a project. While recovery should not be neglected in a relationship, it shouldn’t be the end goal of the relationship either. The end goal is, well, a strong relationship and a life together.

Continue reading “the romanticising of romance and illness”

why suicide shouldn’t be criminalised

In conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day earlier this month, gender equality group Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) called for a repeal of Chapter 16, Section 309 of the penal code, which makes attempting suicide a seizable offence in Singapore.

Marian Govin, The New Paper

Suicide is becoming less and less of a taboo in Singapore. Yet, it is still greatly misunderstood. Today, it is still against the law to commit suicide. According to Aware’s report Distress is Not a Crime: Repeal Section 309, the police are required to arrest suspects, and it is mandatory for third parties to report attempts and intentions to the police. I read a few articles about Section 309. A lot of them talk about how it discourages people from seeking help, sometimes even encouraging them to attempt again with stronger determination. They miss out something else that Section 309 does – the effects it has on survivors.

Here is one of the effects:
Potential employees like to ask about run-ins with the law. If a survivor chooses to be honest and tells him/her about previous suicide attempt(s), there is a high chance that, during the job interview, the survivor is already being looked at through tinted glasses; there is already a giant sign above the survivor’s head that exclaims “DON’T HIRE THIS PERSON”. In essence, it lowers one’s chances of getting a job. Knowing that a failed attempt is a contributing factor to failing a job interview might bring about feelings of bitterness and regret. Not just regret over attempting suicide, but regret over failing to commit suicide.

This criminalisation of suicide does more harm than good. Granted, it acts as a deterrent for some people. For others, however, it acts a motivator. As for survivors, it forces them to live in the shadow of their suicide attempts. Continue reading “why suicide shouldn’t be criminalised”