In 2020, Singapore Children’s Society identified mental health concerns amongst children and young persons (CYP) as key challenges to their well-being. In response to that, we launched the Oasis for Minds Services (OMS). Our aim was to provide a seamless service from mental health promotion, accessible early intervention to recovery-focused services to enable our beneficiaries to develop positively and live in a safe and inclusive community.

We spoke to the OMS team to find out why they decided to embark on this journey and what kind of Singapore they wish to see from their work.

Why did you sign up to be a part of OMS?

Alvin (AA): For me, joining OMS was about moving out into an uncharted territory. Coming from a community perspective, and accompanying CYP on their journeys, I witnessed first-hand the impact of poor mental health on individuals and the difference adequate, appropriate and affordable interventions could make in improving outcomes. OMS presented an opportunity for me to live my personal values more fully and to support CYP at the peripheries of the system.

Adeline (AK): I think that OMS was a sweet spot between my passion and desire to make a difference in the lives of others. I’ve always been interested in working in mental health and found through my previous job that I worked well with youth. Being a part of OMS allows me to be of tangible help to others in a population and sector which I truly care for.

Priscilla (PC): I am attracted to mental health work because it is diverse and dynamic. Because of this, CYP and their families often require more attention and delicate care in facing the adversities of mental health issues. I was drawn to how OMS provides opportunities and a platform to engage through outreach programmes and in-depth case intervention efforts.

Samuel (SL): Mental health work has always been an area of interest and fear to me. My past experiences working with clients with mental health issues have piqued my interest in this area and made me want to know more in order to do more. However, my lack of knowledge and specific skills often resulted in me feeling lost. If I as a professional could feel this way, how else would the general public, especially those with mental health conditions, be feeling? Being a part of OMS will provide me with the opportunity to turn my doubts into skills to support others, and for others to do the same.

Zach (ZL): Other than my hopes to grow in my competency as a worker, mental health is a cause that is close to my heart. It is misunderstood and the stigma is a very real concern that prevents people from getting the help they need and deserve.

Vivyan (VC): When Singapore Children’s Society was invited to venture into CYP mental health, it was a loud ‘yes’ for me and I wanted to contribute in any way possible to make this a reality. This reality is designed around our beneficiaries’ best interests in a sustainable manner.

Forging new frontiers for the Society: The OMS team, headed by Vivyan (third from left)
with team members (from left to right) Alvin, Adeline, Priscilla, Samuel and Zach

What do you want to see in Singapore as a result of your work at OMS?

AK:  I think there are three things I hope to see. Firstly, I hope that children and young people who might not otherwise be able to access or afford mental health services in Singapore will finally be able to get the help they need and benefit through what OMS can offer. Secondly, I hope that through our programmes, there will be an increase in mental health literacy among the young in Singapore. Lastly, I hope that that public and government attention will turn towards children and youth’s mental health so that they can implement the necessary structures, policies and systems to safeguard it, as well as continue to increase the number of publicly-funded interventions needed to treat mental health conditions.

SL: I hope to see inclusivity and a community that is both giving and accepting. I hope that care and support for those who need them would come not only from families, but from the wider community and from the society as a whole.

VC: I hope that our society can be a kinder and more compassionate one, where we celebrate each other’s small wins and cushion each other’s big falls. I envision a culture that enables individuals to grow from adversity.

Any personal anecdotes of your own, family or friends, struggles with mental health?

AA: Struggles with mental well-being have been a constant in my life since childhood. I have felt the ebbs and flows of drowning and surfacing through depressive episodes for years. This was most pronounced when I was a teenager and my father was hospitalised for an extended period. I felt isolated and abandoned as it was left to me to manage my father’s medical care plan. It took me quite a while, along with quite a bit of therapy, to come to terms with everything that had occurred during that period of my life. Since then, I have learnt quite a lot about my own limitations and capabilities and the importance of having touchstones around me to keep me grounded and constantly moving forward.

PC: The first time I became aware that I was struggling with my mental health was the period after I gave birth to my first child. I was going through post-natal blues while trying to cope with this new transition and new role as a mother. I felt conflicted as I wanted to manage my circumstances alone, so I did ask for help, yet I was also aware that I was one step away from falling apart. Thankfully, with the support of my friends and family who looked out for me and encouraged me to create a space for self-care, I was gradually able to recalibrate and find my grounding and balance.

Any advice or tips for people who are struggling with mental health?

AK: Do not be afraid to reach out to multiple sources for help and to specify what kind of help you need. I think that there are more people who care about your well-being than you think.

SL: Speak to somebody – regardless of them being a professional or not. Speaking to someone and not keeping problems to yourself will give you different perspectives of the issue you are experiencing.

ZL: Be kind and gentle with yourself –first and foremost, be your own best friend. If we don’t show compassion to ourselves, how can we expect others to do so?

What do you appreciate about your team members at OMS?

OMS team in unison: The team is open, supportive, passionate and balanced. We each bring our own diverse experiences and knowledge. At the same time, we are driven towards a common goal of supporting the mental well-being of CYP in the community. Everyone has taken that leap of faith into the unknown to co-create a future that our beneficiaries and community deserve and need.

Click here to read the story in Chinese.

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