By: Cheryl Chiew
In most Asian societies, mental health is still rarely discussed and avoided topic. However, increasing mental health awareness has been raised through discussions on social media. To better understand the attitudes that young Singaporeans have towards mental health, I asked 6 Singaporean millennials to share their thoughts on therapy.
*Responses were edited for length and clarity
“I think we should see therapists as life coaches too.”
I’ve been for counseling and therapy a few times now. Usually, I would share my therapy experience with anyone who is interested as I think therapy is such a valuable resource to society. But I notice people usually find the push to go only when they have issues in their life that they feel unequipped to handle.
I think that Singapore society is generally accepting of therapy. But the general consensus is that only people with crippling problems need to see a therapist. Because of this perception and personal pride, people are reluctant to get help, even if they need it.
But I think we should see therapists as life coaches too. They help us to see our blind spots and equip us to make better decisions in our life.
– Chloe Tong, 27, freelance copywriter
“Some people might think therapy is a waste of time and money because no tangible outcome can be seen.”
I think people go to therapists to get fresh perspectives on recurring issues and to have an alternative outlet to pour out their thoughts for fear of burdening their loved ones.
I would go for therapy, and generally my friends are accepting of therapy. But I feel Singaporean society only accepts going to a therapist if they feel that a mental health concern is ‘valid’. For example, a person who seeks therapy ‘has’ to have a proper diagnosis. If not, some people might think therapy is a waste of time and money because no tangible outcome can be seen.
– Mandon Lee, 27, content strategist
“Going for therapy is now considered as self-care, just like going to a doctor when one is feeling physically unwell.”
I definitely think, in Singapore, we’ve moved past the stigma of therapy as a thing for ‘crazy’ or ‘damaged’ people. Going for therapy is now considered as self-care, just like going to a doctor when one is feeling physically unwell.
We see this from the most recent COVID-19 campaign for mental health: the government advocates seeking help for your mental health when needed, especially because of the current social isolation situation.
I’ve been to 2 therapy sessions because I just needed to talk to someone and get an objective view on some issues. I feel if you talk to friends or family, they tend to view your experiences with a subjective lens as they are emotionally invested in you.
– Joey C., 24, teacher
“While social support systems are important, an untrained person might not be equipped with the right know-how to help.”
When a person needs help for their mental health, approaching friends or family may not be ideal. While social support systems are important, an untrained person might accidentally trigger and worsen an affected person’s mental state. That’s where therapists come in to provide mental and emotional assistance.
I have friends who are seeing therapists and I would go for therapy if needed. But I’m on the fence if Singaporean society is accepting of those who see therapists.
I’ve been in countless encounters where friends and family pass jokes about having a person committed to the Institute of Mental Health. These are the same people who are aware and accepting of their close friends and/or relatives having mental health issues. So, I think there is a lot more work to be done.
– Hakim Lim, 29, aerospace engineer
“If there’s a problem and you need help, do what you have to do to address it.”
I don’t really see therapy as a taboo thing anyone should be embarrassed about. If there’s a problem and you need help, do what you have to do to address it.
I used to go for therapy but stopped shortly after. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to continue, rather it was too costly. But those few sessions identified certain issues I’d been suppressing and started me on a healing path. Now, when I’m confronted with problems, I can better dissect and figure things out on my own.
While I happen to be surrounded by people who don’t find therapy shameful, I’m aware that tons of people in Singaporean society still have a negative perception of therapy. So, I’m quite careful about who I share my experiences with.
– Kathleen Leong, 27, content marketing manager
“With therapy, they become that much more in control of their situations instead of having their situations control them”
I know quite a few people going for therapy. I myself have gone for therapy. And it can be observed that with therapy, they become that much more in control of their situations instead of having their situations control them.
Within my own circles, therapy is becoming increasingly essential and the stigma towards it is lessening. There is a great amount of advocacy for self-awareness and self-control. But with older Singaporeans and in certain workplace environments, I have experienced a disdain for the conversation with regards to mental health and therapy. Problems involving one’s personal life are still considered hindrances and a reason for judgment and prejudice.
– Brendan Julian, 27, final year engineering student
Going For Therapy
Most Singaporean millennials are generally accepting and open towards going for therapy. But there is still a negative perception of therapy and discussing mental health issues among older Singaporeans. Hopefully, with more advocacy work and awareness, we can move towards a Singaporean society that prioritizes and normalizes talking about our mental health!