By Sadia Roohi
World Mental Health Day falls on October 10 each year with the agenda of increasing awareness of mental health issues worldwide and mobilising efforts in support of mental wellness.
NTU alumnus, Kevin Wee, now 28, has a cheerful demeanour
whenever he hosts his YouTube interviews. A mental health advocate and trainer today, he was quite a different person nine years ago. As a recovered patient with mental health issues, Kevin has since developed his career around supporting the
mental wellness of youths.
He recently hosted a podcast series for NTU’s Career and Attachment Office (CAO) and spoke with notable alumni to share their work experiences and the skills they have developed.
Kevin Wee (WKWSCI/2019), founder of Rebound with Resilience, a local social enterprise committed to raising the resilience of youth.
Lessons from a bleak past
During and after his GCE 'A' Level exams, Kevin faced a severe bout of depression and mania. It was a bleak period in his past that he remembers clearly.
Due to anxiety and a mental block, he handed in blank papers for his math exam. In December 2012, Kevin was hospitalised as he could no longer contain his suicidal thoughts. The medication and counselling helped him control his condition, and after a
few months of treatment, he got on his feet.
“It was a transformational period in my young life. Overcoming depression gave me a deep desire to advocate for mental health and I wanted to go to schools to inspire and encourage students,” explained Kevin.
And that was exactly what he told his interviewers when applying for the degree programme at NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) – his ambition to become a mental health advocate and run a campaign for his final
year project (FYP). He and his teammates ran an FYP campaign to help raise the mental resilience of secondary school students, by facilitating talks by people with disabilities and running full-scale learning carnivals in school halls.
Kevin (standing, left) and his teammates while they were working on their campaign for their FYP.
“It was very memorable and yet exhausting to run the campaign. But seeing the smiles and joy on the students’ faces made everything worth it,” said Kevin.
While in University around 2015, Kevin conducted freelance training in schools where he realised that mental health and vulnerability were topics that went undiscussed and were taboo to some extent, leaving some students facing academic stress or encountering
peer pressure or family issues feeling depressed and helpless.
“Students were most interested to hear stories of my failures and how I bounced back in life. This cemented my dream of running a training company dedicated to resilience and mental health,” explained Kevin.
He went on to do an internship in a leading training company and completed his FYP. Upon graduation, his interest led him to start a social enterprise, Rebound with Resilience, specialising in youth development and their mental wellness education. He
also runs a YouTube channel and holds regular interviews with guests to explore multifaceted topics on mental wellness, including interviewing Ms Tin Pei Ling, a Member of Parliament and CEO of Business China.
In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%, according to a scientific brief released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2022.
The pandemic has brought the topic of wellbeing to the forefront. The positive wellbeing of students and staff is of paramount importance to NTU. The University Wellbeing Office (UWO) was set up in April 2021 to provide a range of mental health services
such as counselling and training. The NTU Wellbeing Fund was also established to support UWO’s programmes to enhance mental health and wellbeing within the OneNTU community. In its first year, UWO ran 127 outreach and engagement activities to
promote mental wellbeing, engaging over 5,000 students and staff.
Nanyang Business School alumnus Leom Sheng Peng (Class of 2022), 24, is one the two nEbO leaders who will be the first to embark on a certified Peer Supporters Programme (PSP) by nEbO in collaboration with Limitless Singapore. nEbO is a community for
youths aged between 12 and 25 years. It is the junior membership arm of NTUC that aims to create a community of Work-Ready, World-Ready and Life-Ready youths.
“I believe that active listening and emotion management are transferrable and teachable skills. With my experience as a crisis hotline personnel, I can be the mentor to provide support, care and perspective for youths battling mental health issues
through PSP. Eventually, they can also render help and support to their peers. This will create a ripple effect that will make Singapore a kinder and more compassionate society,” said Sheng Peng.
Kevin speaking to students at his former school, Victoria School.
Explaining how the pandemic has affected the mental wellbeing of many, Kevin said: “It is not just what is seen, but what is unseen, that poses the biggest threat. Mental health is effectively invisible. It may not always be easy to spot the signs.
Furthermore, resilience requires both a stressor and the ability and tools to adapt. Covid-19 catalysed rapid change and added stressors in many areas of life, yet for most, the ability to adapt may not have caught up as quickly.”
However, Kevin believes that “mental health is always a concern, regardless of the season”.
“When we reach the peak of our success, we need all the more to be mindful. Our mind is arguably our biggest asset and access to our fulfilment and happiness, so we must take care of it,” Kevin emphasised.
What should one do if one is starting to face a mental health issue? Kevin believes that in providing advice, context matters more than content. “Try to understand your context and what would be comfortable for you. Identifying the source and working
to avoid, reduce or process it is generally helpful, and oftentimes it will help to have a second party such as a close friend, counsellor or therapist who can bring you through this process and help you make wiser choices in your management and overcoming
the issues you face,” said Kevin.
If one is aware of a close friend or relative facing mental health challenges, Kevin shares the general principles on how to consider supporting him or her:
- Don’t make yourself the entire world to the person. It is unrealistic for you to be providing support 24/7. It helps to guide the person to have a support system and tools to manage his or her condition.
- In times of distress, sometimes connection matters more than an immediate response. Instead of giving a quick solution, you may, listen with empathy and say: “I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. I won’t understand fully,
but I appreciate you telling me. And I’m here for you.”
- You may approach Caregivers Alliance which is a non-profit organisation specially aiming to help caregivers. They have ample resources and free pieces of training and will provide you with guidance on how to provide support.
NTU’s University Wellbeing Office has started programmes, namely Psychological First Aid training and the Peer Helping Programme, to nurture students and staff to gain vital life skills in managing wellbeing. Make a gift to the NTU Wellbeing Fund to support more outreach activities.