All aboard! Even in transit, a commuter train is on track to break down social stigma related to mental health. (“Themed train aims to get family and friends to help those with mental health conditions,” The Straits Times, July 17, 2017).
Mental health awareness is a universal issue – and mental illness is more common than you may imagine. So, it’s vital that we recognize what people around us may be going through. City officials in Singapore decided to take advantage of residents’ daily commute by turning it into an innovative educational and community-building experience.
A themed train will run 18 hours each day for four weeks. The cars contain panels with stories and information about different mental illnesses. The panels humanize the experience of mental illness and provide an opportunity for commuters to learn that those with mental illness are just like them. For any passengers experiencing mental health symptoms, the panels offer them the opportunity to feel recognized and supported, rather than ignored. The campaign, created by Touch Community Services and Nanyang Polytechnic, will reach around 840,000 passengers with messages from those who live with mental illness every day.
The information in the six cars will focus on three mental health conditions: depression, anxiety disorder and schizophrenia. One woman whose story was featured on a panel says she suffered for a long time in loneliness. “Before I was even diagnosed, I had already dealt with depression for two years, but I was so scared to talk about it or seek help,” says Ms. N. She hopes that the project will change the experience of others like her who encounter mental health symptoms.
Crowded public places are often a source of stress and can easily trigger those who suffer from mental health symptoms. Many people, faced with those circumstances, feel the need to censor some aspect of their experience or hide their emotions. By launching innovative ideas like changing a train into an instrument for public education, we can create spaces where every person can feel welcomed and supported, no matter what symptoms they may be experiencing.
“Mental health tends to be under-reported and understated,” said Mr. Desmond Choo, Mayor of North East District, who hopes the train will increase awareness and initiate conversations. “It is like any other illness and, with help, it is manageable and should not be stigmatized.”
One way to increase your ability to respond to those experiencing mental health symptoms is to gain more information and skills. You can make a difference! Learn about how a Mental Health First Aid course can prepare you to support those in need.