1. What does thriving mean to you?
Thriving to me means to fight back against adversity even if it seems like you’re fighting a losing battle. When things seem impossible, to garner the strength within yourself to bite the bullet and do what is needed of you, even if it’s something you wish you didn’t have to do, or not want to do.
We have strength we never knew we had and when the situation calls for it, I am confident that every person will thrive in their own strength from within.
2. Alongside other moms who are going through loss and grief, you have started The PleaseStay. movement. What influenced you to step up to do this?
Through Evan’s journey from his depression until his demise, I had witnessed the struggles a child needs to undergo when suffering from mental illness. As an adult who has fought depression for over a decade, being a caregiver to a depressed person, especially a child is another unique, unfathomable set of challenges. To fight against my own anxieties is nothing compared to the pain and fears of seeing your child suffer and potentially losing him.
As an adult, I have the skills to rationalise and “coax” myself out of the pits. But trying to help a young child make sense of everything is sometimes so beyond our control. I wish through sharing our experiences, it will help other parents going through the same make sense of some of the behavioural traits and challenges their kids are portraying and hopefully encourage them to take the appropriate action to help their children.
3. What was a challenge you had to overcome to get this movement started, and how did you overcome it?
The movement is a group effort and I would say it started almost by divine intervention. The immediate challenge for me to be part of the movement though was time and my emotional capacity. I have three other younger children of whom are also trying to recover from their brother’s death. I’m very mindful not to make them feel less important by being unable to give them the most of my love and care. My job is to provide them the right conditions to heal. I have to be very mindful that I don’t get so emotionally drained that I am not in the right frame of mind to help them.
Being someone very emotional, reading some of the feedback and messages sent to me privately can be very traumatic as well. The need to be socially responsible is what I stand firm on. What we say to parents listening out there requires us to be sincere, honest, yet not too personally intertwined to our specific situation, which is surprisingly hard to do sometimes, when there is so much I wished I had known and done for Evan. It requires the realisation that this movement is not specifically about Evan.
It requires us as a group to be unbiased and objective. There are lots we would like to say on a personal note. But these may have been helpful for Evan but not the wider group of youths who are depressed in general. While we draw upon personal experience to throw light on suicide prevention, the bigger picture always has to come first in our advocacy work. I would say, being self-aware and level headed has helped me a lot.
4. What would have helped made your journey easier?
We are to be honest a group of moms who came together for a common cause. Each of us brings with us our own grief and grievances. Our own disappointments and opinions. I think we are all very clear of that and we are always reminding each other to stick to our Mission.
It requires us to set aside our differences and place the movement first before our personal agendas.
It is difficult to say what would make things easier – there is no formula. We just do our best to manage the journey we are put on. With good intentions as our guiding light, and armed with patience and courage, we set off to reach out to help.
5. How different is your life now compared to before embarking on the PleaseStay movement? How has this changed or given you a different perspective on life?
To be honest, I’m still me. A grieving mother with three other kids steering through life day by day. It gives me comfort though that by sharing Evan’s life, potentially improvements can be made in the society as a whole so that many after him can live a life that is safer and happier, with less growing pains.
One obvious difference since Evan’s passing – I’m much more intuitive to people around me though, especially my kids.
6. You chose to do something positive and good in spite of your grief and personal challenges in dealing with your loss. What would you say to others going through a really difficult time right now?
No doubt life is not always a bed of roses. But let’s seek options to make things better. Sometimes a simple life choice a day will make that difference. For example, choosing to force yourself out of the house to take a slow walk instead of moping around aimlessly in the house. Choosing to let negative things go instead of focusing on it. Walking away from an uncomfortable situation. Maybe even just saying what is on your mind without worrying about being judged. Yes. Maybe we need to repeat it again tomorrow.
Go through the whole Long cycle again. But then again, maybe you won’t need to. Maybe tomorrow WILL be a better day than today. Give yourself the chance to find that out. A chance to craft your life through the magic you can do. You deserve that chance. The people who love you deserve that chance to have you in their lives till God decides that our work is done.
Death is a path of no return. There will be no tomorrow. There will not even be a chance that tomorrow will be better. And it’s not just for you. It’s also a death penalty for all the people who love you. Isn’t it ironic that the people who love you the most get the harshest life sentence? There’s no return for them as well. They are doomed to grieve for the rest of their lives for someone they love so much. They didn’t even have a choice to say, “this is not the way I want to lead my life”, if you choose to take yours because you don’t want to lead this life.
7. If you can do/change anything in Singapore, or in life here, what would you do?
It is not one change that will make a difference but an integrated plan between agencies, organisations, and individuals. Removing the stigma of depression and suicide to create an avenue for people who need help to come forward and actually get help, without feeling like a failure and being judged. Mental Health Literacy should be promoted in schools, at the workplace and in communities. Mental Health Literacy includes recognising mental health in people, knowing how to help, knowing where to seek help, knowing the “basic mental health first aid”.
Education as a fundamental programme in different aspects of mental health wellness for youth and kids. Education on empathy, how to offer assistance as a friend, a sibling and a peer. Education on how to identify a child’s own emotional changes and challenges. Education on how to deal with their feelings and thoughts. Better support made available especially to the young who may not have the financial support to seek help. Improved medical support. Reduction of stress.
All of these changes cannot be brought about by one person or one organization or agency. They need to be addressed comprehensively and complementarily so as to create an infrastructure to support the growing numbers of youths with mental and emotional issues.