April encourage early treatment, and facilitate the

April
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Raising Mental Health Awareness through
Media Campaigns

 

 This proposal aims to increase the presence of Silver Ribbon Singapore
to raise awareness of mental health and gather support of the community towards
sufferers of mental health issues through a web series, a social media pledge,
and an online game. Mental health has always been a taboo topic in
Singapore. However, recently some measures had been taken to promote mental
health awareness and end the stigmatisation against mental illnesses. There is
an adequate amount of newspaper coverage on this topic, as well as articles
covering events that revolved around mental health awareness. Silver Ribbon
Singapore, as well as other organisations, has also done various campaigns in
hopes of spreading awareness of mental health issues to the public. In spite of
those efforts to promote mental health awareness, the stigmatisation and
discrimination against sufferers of mental illnesses prevails.

 

Currently, a critical issue that arose from the insufficient
awareness is the lack of understanding possessed by the general public towards
the importance of mental health, be it their own or others’. Low levels of
awareness also alienate sufferers of mental illnesses and this makes it
difficult for them to find their place in society.

 

There are 3 possible solutions that can be carried out to solve
these problems. Firstly, a web series revolving around mental illnesses can be
created. Alternatively, an online game can be created. Lastly, an online pledge
can be created through the use of a hashtag to spread the word.

 

Silver Ribbon Singapore aims to address
the issue of mental health. Their cause is to combat mental health stigma,
encourage early treatment, and facilitate the integration of people with mental
illness within the society through innovative means of promoting mental health
literacy. Newspapers have covered several events promoting mental health
awareness, occasionally publishing articles that directly address this topic to
educate the readers. The Straits Times is an example of a newspaper that often
publicises campaigns or movements supporting anti-stigmatisation of mental
illnesses. For instance, an article about Unsaid, a youth-led arts collective, was published. It was started
by a core team of students hoping to break the silence over mental health
issues.(Tan, Sue-Ann)
Giving such campaigns publicity helps to spread the message and lets people
have a better understanding of the importance of fighting against indifference
and judgement toward mental illnesses. TODAY newspaper also published an
article shedding light on mental health related issues and stated, “Neglecting
to care for our mental health could prove detrimental in the long run.” (Tan
Sheng Han, Kenneth) However, despite those actions taken to help these issues
gain exposure, there is still a misconception on mental illnesses due to the
public’s lack of knowledge. The Institute of Mental Health’s (IMH) recent
literacy study found that it is a common perception here that those with mental
illness can get better “if they want to”. 9 in 10 of the 3,000 people
surveyed believed so, with half of them saying it is “a sign of personal
weakness”. (Tan, Judith) This misconception caused a widespread social
stigmatism against people suffering from mental illnesses.

 

Several events and campaigns have been done by organisations to
educate and raise awareness of mental illnesses. Some examples of the events
hosted by Silver Ribbon Singapore include the “Free Your Mind” Competition and
the World Mental Health Day Carnival 2017. The “Free Your Mind” Competition was
held to commemorate World Mental Health Day 2017 and give participants a chance
to escape their busy everyday life by doing nothing. (“World Mental Health
Day”) World Mental Health Day Carnival 2017, another event done by the
organisation, was held at three different locations. Over 3,000 residents at
Hougang, Geylang Serai and Woodlands visited educational booths, attended
talks, participated in games and did other activities such as taiji and
laughing yoga. (Lin, Melissa) There were
also events hosted by other organisations such as the Light of Hope Run. It was
organised by Touch Organisation to rally the community to show support to those
who are suffering from mental illnesses and create a more accepting
society.(“Light of Hope Run”) Another event, Voice! Out Singapore Concert in
the Park, was held by Mental Health Awareness Singapore to celebrate World
Mental Health Day. Many local artistes were included in the line-up to attract
more people, one of them being Stefanie Sun, a renowned local singer. (Ang, Tian
Tian)

 

There are a handful of problems caused by the lack of mental
health awareness. One of them is that people end up not prioritising mental
health. They do not see it as of equal importance as their physical health.

According to IMH’s study in 2016, a large gap in help-seeking behaviour (also
known in the scientific literature as the “treatment gap”) exists for the
majority of mental illnesses. (“Latest study sheds light on the state of
mental health in Singapore”) Mind Matters: A Study of Mental Health
Literacy also states people with lower education and income were more likely to
perceive the mentally ill as ‘weak not sick’. (“Latest study sheds light
on the state of mental health in Singapore”) This perception will cause a
delay in seeking treatment when faced with a mental illness which shows that
when not educated properly on mental health, one with a mental illness may put
off seeking treatment to the point where the effects of mental illnesses take a
toll on them. Another problem caused by the lack of mental health awareness is
the difficulty sufferers face when attempting to reintegrate back into society,
especially when it comes to returning to the workforce. This can be caused by
public stigma. According to a National Council of Social Service survey of 477
people recovering from mental health issues in 2016, 7 in 10 had trouble living
with dignity because of others’ attitudes and actions causing them to feel
incompetent. Self-stigma, due to the lack of acceptance of mental illnesses by
society, can also make things difficult for them. According to IMH, as many as
43.6 per cent of persons with mental illness in Singapore may experience
moderate to high levels of self-stigma. (“IMH’s National Mental Health Literacy
Study Shows Dementia, Alcohol Abuse and Depression are the Most Recognisable
Among Common Mental Disorders”) This results in a lower self-esteem and makes
it harder for them to regain their confidence. This stigmatisation of mental
illnesses as a result of lack of awareness and knowledge makes it difficult for
people who are suffering to seek help as they fear admitting that they have a
problem and are afraid of being judged. 

 

By changing this problem, we are able to create a more
inclusive society for those who suffer from mental illnesses. With more people
being accepting and supportive of them, their confidence will slowly be
regained and this will help them feel more included in society. Moreover, it is
common for them to face discrimination in the workforce. Ms Hafizah
Kamarulzaman, a schrizophenic patient, was turned down in various sectors such
as food and beverage and healthcare sectors and received responses such as, “If that’s the case, then our
position is full”. (Zaccheus, Melody) If there was a deeper
understanding of the challenges they face and more people were willing to
accept them, it will be easier for them to return to the workforce.  Additionally, with a higher level of
awareness, sufferers will be more open to seeking treatment for  their mental health problems. This is
especially important for people who suffer from mental illnesses but are
unaware of it. For example, some might see mental depression as fatigue and
think it is something they can “get over”, but if there was more awareness,
they will be able to discern between depression symptoms and common fatigue and
thus encourage them to seek professional help if needed. As more people are
educated on this issue, they will be able to tell if they have a mental health
issue and know to seek treatment for it.

 

There are a few ways to go about solving this issue. A web
series on mental illnesses can be created to educate the public on mental
health. Weekly episodes will be uploaded where the story showcases the main
character suffering from a mental illness and highlights the obstacles they
face and the consequences of not seeking treatment for it. In the end, the main
character seeks treatment and lives a better life after knowing that there are
people supporting them in their journey. This not only taps into the emotions
of the audience, it also shows the struggles a sufferer of mental illnesses may
face, as well as the importance of moral support from others, which encourages
the viewers to show care and concern for people with mental illnesses. It also
educates the public on the importance of mental health and the impact it can
have on one’s everyday life. Web series on Youtube are getting increasingly
popular, so by promoting this cause through a web series, it could attract
public’s interest. It can also be a possible collaboration with existing
content creators on Youtube such as Butterworks or Night Owl Cinematics to
boost viewership. This web series can also be promoted through a Facebook page,
updating the target audience whenever a new episode is uploaded or sharing
special features such as behind the scenes footage. It can also serve as a
platform to gather feedback. Overall, this encourages people to talk about the
series and spread awareness.

 

Another campaign idea is to create an online game where
targeted players will play as a classmate of the main character in the who
suffers from a mental illness such as depression. There will be a storyline and
the player has to make choices to help the aforementioned character. Different
routes will be available in correspondence to the player’s choices. Through the
course of the game, the main character will start to act differently as they
show signs of a mental illness, and the player has to make the right choice to
encourage the character to seek professional help. The main character could
either end up seeking help and start their road to recovery or continue
suffering from the struggles their mental illness pose on their everyday life,
causing dire consequences such as suicide. This is a simulation of a scenario
that could play out realistically if we do not employ the right approach to
helping someone with a mental illness. It shows people the impact of a
bystander’s actions on a sufferer and how a small gesture could make or break
them.

 

The last campaign idea is a social media pledge using a
hashtag. People will draw a heart on their wrist and post a picture on social
media with the hashtag #SpreadLoveSpreadAwareness as a pledge to stand with
sufferers of mental health issues. Pages on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter
and Facebook will be created to showcase others’ posts. By getting people to
pledge, it rallies people to show their support for the mentally ill and
creates a more inclusive society. Using this hashtag will spread awareness as
it will stir up curiosity and prompt social media users to find out more about
the hashtag and the cause.

 

 

The campaign idea I have chosen is making a web series. A web
series will be suitable for all ages, as according to an inaugural survey conducted by the
Media Development Authority (MDA) to track the population’s viewing habits, the
national average of people using OTT video services are estimated to be just
over 50 per cent. In comparison, OTT services dominated about 60 per
cent of millennials’ weekly viewing time, and 48 per cent for those aged 35 to
54. (Tham, Irene) Also, a web series provides opportunities for a
follow-up season. While there may be hype about the series, it may be
short-lived. However, this can be solved through a second season which can have
long-term effects on the public and ingrain the message of the show in the
audience’s minds. It is also easier to have a continuation of the series
rather than creating an entirely new one as we can gauge the level of attention
it might receive from the statistics of the first season of the series.

 

The hashtag might be effective as it attracts interest and this
can in turn spread awareness of mental health. A previous hashtag campaign
#MeToo went viral and the idea of “empowerment through empathy” was put into use.

Millions of survivors were encouraged to voice out their experiences with
sexual harrassment and assault. (“You Are Not Alone”) A hashtag acts as one
impactful voice to project the silent sufferings mental illness patients had
been facing. However, it can also receive attention for the wrong reasons.

People might be doing it just to jump on the bandwagon and it does not directly
educate people as they have to research about the hashtag to know what issues
the hashtag stemmed from, which most people might not do. This hashtag is
easily dismissible as it is not a consistent campaign with follow-up
activities. Also, the campaign can only be successful if the hashtag goes viral
which is not a guarantee, as there will only be impact if the hashtag is widely
used.

 

Creating an online game would engage the users and give them an
idea of how their actions will trigger a ripple effect and how they can have
both positive and negative impacts on someone who suffers from a mental
illness. It might also have an emotional influence on them which will cause a
long-lasting impression and help them to really understand more about mental
illnesses.  But it is considered less
effective as compared to a web series as it will have a smaller scope due to
the fact that the target audience for games are mainly young adults. In 2017, approximately 49
percent of gamers are between the ages of 21 to 35 years. (“Share of gamers by
gender and age in Singapore in 2017”) Almost half of the population of gamers
are young adults, which proves that an online game might not be able to educate
people of all ages as an online series would. Although promoting mental health
awareness through a game would be a creative way to get attention, not everyone
would finish playing it as they might get bored halfway while playing and not
finish the route, and thus lose the intention of the game.