What it means to move Beyond the Label.
In the last couple of years, the conversation around mental health conditions has changed dramatically. Using terms like “crazy” and “神经病” to describe those struggling with mental illness is no longer socially acceptable. The taboo surrounding the topic of depression and anxiety has gone away, and many Singaporeans (myself included) are actively advocating for better mental health.
But talk is cheap. Thought most Singaporeans publicly endorse greater tolerance and inclusion of those with mental health conditions, there are still many among us who subconsciously harbour suspicions and fears towards them. Can we trust them to show up at work every day? Are they going to “act up” if we choose to strike up a romantic relationship with them? Will they put our families at risk?
The Beyond the Label campaign, put together by the National Council of Social Services, has sought to stamp out the stigma of mental health conditions entirely by calling for greater empathy and compassion for sufferers.
As part of their national education efforts, they produced a video that features two individuals – Nicole Kay and Nicholas Patrick – interviewing members of the public about their views regarding mental illness. The interviewees make harsh statements about sufferers, implying that they are a threat to others and cannot be trusted.
At the end of the video, Nicole and Nicholas reveal that they both have a history of mental health conditions. The video stirs up some really strong emotions and calls for us to reflect on how flippant we often are when it comes to depression and other mental conditions. But does it also encourage people to then keep their honest opinions private, thereby stifling the conversation around mental illness?
This week, I posed this question to Nicholas, one of the two interviewers. He shares how to talk about mental illness, and what he’s learned from his own 12-year struggle with depression.
Nicholas Patrick is the founder of Ekho Academy, an online platform that provides support for individuals struggling with mental health issues.