On 11 December 2020, Singapore Management University (SMU) was lauded at the first Silver Ribbon Mental Health Awards Ceremony 2020 For Schools, which aims to acknowledge and congratulate schools that have actively promoted mental health and created a mentally friendly and healthy learning environment for youths and future generations in Singapore.
At the event, Guest of Honour (GOH) Ms Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Manpower said that the awards were convened to encourage schools and their students to learn and do more for mental health and contribute to a more positive and inclusive society.
The virtual awards ceremony saw five winners across different institutions in Singapore and they are SMU, River Valley High, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore University of Social Science and PSB Academy. As one of the selected award recipients for the Institutes of Higher Education category, SMU has led the way in demonstrating the advocating of mental health through the courage to innovate, flexibility to make adjustments, nurturing impact in and beyond our society.
Apart from the speech by the GOH, there was also a speech by the President of Silver Ribbon (Singapore), Ms Ellen Lee (JP) who is a former Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC and a Consultant at Belinda Ang Tang and Partnerships, as well as a sharing on the journey and schools mental health projects by Silver Ribbon’s Youth Chapter.
As the representative of one of the winning schools, Dr Ada Chung, Head of Mrs Wong Kwok Leong Student Wellness Centre (MWKLSWC) also spoke at the event.
She highlighted that “receiving this accolade is a testament to SMU’s organisational efforts in recognising that mental health initiatives are necessary to reduce stigma related to mental health conditions and to raise awareness on mental health conditions. This in turn helps to encourage inclusion and acceptance of persons with mental health conditions. In line with SMU Vision 2025 to tackle the world’s complexity and impacting humanity positively, there is a need to constantly find ways of growing the possible impacts and cultivate meaningful changes. The courage, adaptability and resilience in trying new avenues to create transformative education through training resources, innovating research efforts and engagement with community partners allow the expansion of the various possibilities that are available to advocate mental health within SMU and beyond.” She added that she was thankful and privileged to have a committed team that is resourceful and innovative, like-minded colleagues and strong support from the top management.”
Efforts and Contributions within the SMU Community
The SMU Peer Helping Programme is the first international certified programme under the National Association of Peer Program Professionals. The 16-year-old programme has produced about 1,100 peer helpers to date, including those who have graduated. At present, there are about 60 active peer helpers comprising undergraduates from Year 1 to 4 who form part of the support network/crisis response team and conduct outreach activities on a regular termly basis. These Peer Helpers are trained in helping skills and work closely with the professional counsellors to provide a listening ear and emotional support for their peers during times of needs.
From April 2020, the Centre’s counsellors worked reflexively to convert all training materials to E-modules with the help of the Co-Curricular Development team, Office of the Dean of Students. Through regular team discussions, the online training plan for all PH Levels were prepared and completed timely for weekly training in Term 1 AY2020/21 via E-modules and WebEx/ Microsoft Teams.
Apart from ensuring a robust internal support network, the counselling team ensures that their efforts in outreach are effectively spread out through interactive online learning portals, monthly newsletters, workshops, podcasts, campaign events and video production series with both internal and external partners. These delivered contents emphasise the importance of seeking help early, managing good mental health in our students, and how we can all be a part of it.
The annual Mental Health Awareness Week is organised by the MWKLSWC and coincides with the World Mental Health Day on 10 October. It aims to raise awareness of and create a better understanding of mental health and wellbeing among the SMU community. Themed Riding the Waves of Emotions, the event this year addressed how individuals should pay attention to their personal emotions to better understand and adopt appropriate coping mechanisms to best ride out emotional “waves”, especially in trying or challenging moments. Students also took part in interactive online activities which gave them a greater understanding of the wealth of emotions which they may experience.
Despite the COVID-19 situation, the team has also conducted 21 online workshops for students from mid-June to end of August and one family relationship workshop was held for staff on 28 May 2020. In addition, six training session for student leaders on the topic of “how to identify and help your peers in distress” were conducted for all CCAs safety-IC, student leaders from LKCSB as well as resident seniors at PSR by the counselling team in January, June and August 2020. These training sessions served to provide confidence and knowledge for student leaders/IC to assist students in distress when required.
The Centre’s counsellors also created and released an innovative series of 12 podcasts relating to mental wellness and the importance of self-care and a series of videos emphasising the importance of (PIES) Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Social Wellness. In addition, monthly eDMs and messages featuring topics such as Breathing Space, Finding Peace, Sleep better, Time Management, Self-Compassion and Confidence were sent monthly to students.
Using online learning platform, E-modules on mental health and resilience were created. The counselling team worked reflexively and sourced related resource that is relevant and pertinent to the pandemic situation. Two online integrated resource packages with embedded videos and activities were published. The first module “Taking care of your mental health during COVID-19 pandemic” was uploaded in May and “Resilience in the face of uncertainty” was uploaded in July. These learning units were parked inside a co-curricular learning platform and are produced in collaboration with the CCD team.
Impacting SMU community and beyond
In addition to serving the SMU student community through the provision of counselling services, the counselling team has recognised the possibility of leading the way for advocating mental health in a meaningful and impactful way beyond SMU.
The Peer Helpers Symposium in 2017 and 2019 brought diverse groups of helping professionals and student peer helpers to share and learn best practices from each other. Both local and international esteemed speakers were also invited to share their expertise, experience and knowledge with the participants.
The team also published an article on counselling referral at higher education in the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling in May 2019. The study titled – Counselling referral for university students: A phenomenological study from the teachers’ perspective – illuminated the gaps, considerations and areas of improvement for the counselling referral process at higher education.
You can read more about the Silver Ribbon Mental Health Awards in the media: