But it’s only the tip of the iceberg. According to Calm Collective, a local mission-driven organisation that aims to break the stigma of mental health, there’s still more that can be done.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has “at the very least accelerated the attention on mental health, with more people starting to realise how important it is”, normalising conversations around mental health – especially in Asia – will take time as it’s “a huge topic, with many aspects to unpack and normalise”, says Sabrina Ooi and Alyssa Reinoso, founders of Calm Collective. The duo launched the organisation in the thick of the pandemic in 2020, as a community response to Singapore’s COVID-19 lockdown.
The founders had gotten to know each other through mutual friends, and are tragically united by loss. “I met Sabrina through my husband’s close friend, and tragically, we lost both [my husband and his friend] to suicide within two years of each other (in 2015 and 2017). Both men struggled with mental health issues but the societal stigma around mental health stopped them from getting the help they needed before it was too late,” reveals Alyssa.
Sabrina continues: “Fast forward to Singapore’s COVID-19 lockdown, mental health services were considered non-essential during a time where our mental well-being was put to the test – being forced together or apart and navigating all the changes. This gave us the impetus to band together to form Calm Collective, to support our community through a series of webinars that featured mental health professionals and practitioners who shared practical strategies to support our well-being.”
Their vision? To break the stigma of mental health in Asia, so that people can get the help they need. In order to do so, they’re working towards normalising the mental health conversation in Asia.
“Much of the stigma in this part of the world is cultural,” the duo notes, highlighting that it’s common for those who have grown up in Asian cultures to be “ingrained by the previous generations that we need to ‘save face’ and not let anyone know if we’re struggling because it could reflect badly on our families”. A lack of understanding around the topic as it’s not often taught about in schools – or spoken about at home – is also a factor.
“It’s a vicious cycle – if nobody talks about mental health and nobody around us ever shares that they’re going through a mental health struggle, we naturally feel alone or even ashamed of ourselves if we struggle with mental health and are less inclined to seek help. Misconceptions also grow in the dark. Without the proper discourse around mental health, it becomes even scarier to deal with and tackle.”
Without the proper discourse around mental health, it becomes even scarier to deal with and tackleSabrina Ooi and Alyssa Reinoso