Seeking Help (Part 2): Mental Health Awareness Week

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) 2017, The Cinnamon Roll and Love, USP brings to you a two-part series on mental health services in Singapore. Love, USP interviews two service-users of mental health services to share their experiences on what it was like for them to seek professional help.

We hope that these interviews serve as a starting point to larger conversation about mental health as a whole here in USP. If you would like to find out more, the members of Love, USP are always available to point you to the right resources :).

If you do need someone to talk to, you can always approach USP’s own support counsellor Ms. Ng Yun Sian (Email or call for an appointment – uspngys@nus.edu.sg, 65164076) or approach NUS Counselling & Psychological Services.

Our second interview documents the experiences AL (pseudonym given) had with the mental health system when seeking help for a brief psychotic episode.


Love, USP: Thank you for coming down to share about your experiences as a mental health service user today. So firstly, could you start off by sharing with us about your diagnosis that warranted treatment, briefly?

AL: I was diagnosed with brief psychotic episode. I had delusions, which are beliefs that are not true. I was paranoid and believed in things that were non-existent. I would believe that there were people spying on me and things like that. So, that is my illness

Love, USP: To address these symptoms, what kind of professional help did you seek? Like who did you see and how long did you see him/her for?

AL: I saw a psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health. I saw the psychiatrist for around… I think like two years? It was during my NS life. And I was prescribed medication by the psychiatrist. The frequency of visits, I think was around I think probably one month once or around there. Once per one to three months actually.

“Tell this to people with mental illnesses — seeking help is like building a defense system.”

Love, USP: What was the experience like?

AL: In my experience, the time I spent with the psychiatrist each session was relatively short. For me, it was hard to develop a trusting relationship with the psychiatrist but I think the psychiatrist did care for me. I think it was because of the nature of my illness, when I was in a state of psychosis I tended to ask a lot of philosophical questions but the psychiatrist would not answer these questions as I believe they do not entertain these kinds of concerns. So I imagine that to really benefit from these consultations with the psychiatrist you need to calm down and make full use of the limited time with the psychiatrist to figure out how you can get better.

Love, USP: Can you tell me more of the process you went through in detail? What can people expect to go through when they seek help, according to your experience?

AL: Firstly, you will meet the nurses, and they will put you through this whole process of blood tests and paperwork. At the start, the senior doctor will see you and as it goes by IMH may refer you to junior doctors if your illness isn’t so severe. I would say it is just like seeing a normal doctor, it feels like seeing a GP—there’s nothing really special about it. The doctors won’t shake you up and tell you that you have xxx condition. They will be quite neutral and ask things like ‘how are you feeling’, ‘do you have any thoughts of suicide?’ and ‘why are you here?’. They will be very neutral.

Love, USP: Did you think that the medication you received has really helped you? Would you recommend it to others suffering from similar conditions?

AL: Yes, it has helped me, because I do need medication for my condition. And that was the level of help I felt I needed. If I were to see someone who is going through the experiences I had, which was psychosis, I would definitely recommend that he go to IMH and get a doctor to prescribe medication, and besides that I would also my best to help him gain insight into his condition and the path he will be facing.

Tell this to people with mental illnesses—seeking help is like building a defense system. You know that when you enter a state of psychosis, you may be a risk to yourself and others and you can’t lead a normal happy life. I would say going for psychiatric help is like building a defense system, because when you go into an ill state, your loved ones can bring you to seek help and the psychiatrist will have your medical records and they know how to help you best given your history. You have a foundation of support to prevent the worst case like suicide.

Love, USP: Okay, so the last question would be: do you have any hopes and wishes for USP as a community? What would you like to see improved in the community, with regards to mental health?

AL: I hope that USP as a place, we won’t stigmatize people with mental health. I hope that they recognize that people with mental illnesses do have periods where they are ill, but there are also periods where they are fine and we should not let our impressions of them when they are ill affect our judgement of them. I think some people with mental health issues do perform well when they are fine.

Love, USP: Okay, so that’s the end of the interview. Thank you for your time!