SMU Mental Health Week 2023 fosters emotional resilience and holistic wellbeing

From a reflection exercise on the power of positive affirmations to sound bath therapy, SMU’s signature wellness event featured interesting activities and programmes for the SMU Community
By the SMU Corporate Communications team

SMU Mental Health Week (MHW) 2023 took place from 9 – 13 October with an exciting array of activities, talks and workshops for students, faculty and staff. Held in conjunction with World Mental Health Day on 10 October, the event was organised by Mrs Wong Kwok Leong Student Wellness Centre (MWKLSWC), in collaboration with internal and external partners.

This year’s theme, Navigate your journey to mental wellness: Build an emotional compass, focused on the importance of building and strengthening emotional resilience – one of six inter-related dimensions of wellness outlined in the SMU Resilience Framework. The Mental Health Fest and Fringe Activities attracted more than 700 participants from the SMU Community. A series of wellbeing talks and workshops was also organised from 2 – 20 October for faculty and staff.

The Mental Health Fest took centrestage in the form of a mini-carnival at SMU T-Junction. As they enjoyed the various hands-on activities, participants also enhanced their awareness of strategies that could bolster emotional wellbeing.

Highlights included Name It to Tame It - a Feelings Wheel. Law student Anburajan Amritha who enjoyed this activity, said, “Expressing and evaluating feelings more accurately allows us to reflect more deeply on why we are feeling a certain way.” Another popular activity was Let’s Unpack This. Trained facilitators guided participants to connect with their emotions and internal narratives through a card activity. Adrian Andriessens, an exchange student from the University of Maryland said, “Although the facilitator asked several questions, together they told a compelling story of my emotions and their compound effect.”

Dedicated areas for creativity and mindfulness practice were well received. A LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® area – Child’s Play, encouraged participants to create models representing their aspirations for change. Take a Breath provided a comfortable space, complete with cushions, for mindfulness practice.

Students from the University of Indonesia, who were invited for MHW, were spotted at Reflections, a series of mirrors with positive affirmations. Tania, a peer counsellor like her university mates said, “It is my first time attending a university-organised mental health event and I learnt more about emotions and how to cope with them.” SMU Peer Helper and School of Social Sciences student Cheng Ping Zhi, who manned the booth, said this was a simple but “good reminder for everyone to take time to validate ourselves.”

Participants were also encouraged to write messages of gratitude, make MHW resolutions and enjoy a creative colouring activity that cultivated mindfulness. Completed activity cards could be exchanged for wellness gifts such as a mini emotions wheel. A claw-machine, and churros and ice cream stalls added to the carnival-like atmosphere. MWKLSWC partnered external agencies MOHT (MOH Health & Transformation Office), Reach Community Services, Happiness Initiative and The Ubuntu Space for some of these initiatives.

Fringe Activities were also held around SMU Campus. SMU Peer Helpers organised a Mental Wellness Hunt and card and board games at Cosy Haven for students, while patrons at participating cafes in and around SMU enjoyed conversations using the starter kits provided.

MWKLSWC also collaborated with SMU Libraries and Office of Alumni Relations for the Human Library, sessions where invited alumni and faculty shared stories of how they overcame challenging life moments. Eunice Goh, a student from the School of Economics said, “The Human Library normalises conversations on mental health. De-stigmatising these issues starts with each of us making efforts to understand the perspectives of those struggling and changing our mindsets.”

The five-day Mental Health Fest concluded with It’s Friyay! – an enjoyable lunchtime concert that featured performances by students, faculty and staff.

The Office of Human Resources & Faculty Administration, University Social Club and SMU WOW supported MHW by organising a series of self-care programmes for faculty and staff. These included virtual office exercise sessions, craft and sound bath workshops, talks on caregiving and mental wellness, and complimentary massages by the visually impaired. Like the previous year, many of these activity spots were quickly snapped up by enthusiastic faculty and staff.

MHW has truly been a meaningful event made possible by the dedicated team from MWKLSWC, SMU peer helpers and the unwavering support of all partners. Two exhibits that were part of MHW will be on display till the end of the year. The Feelings Wheel can be found at SMU Basement Concourse (near SOA B1 lift lobby) and Reflections – mirrors with positive affirmations – at the Li Ka Shing Library Quiet Area on Level 2.