Beyond the Label – fighting stigma through film, music and helpbot

(Left to right) Mr Ng Yu-Ying, Mr Ivan Lim and Ms Eileen Chai, members of 3am Music Collective at the BTL Fest 2020 Virtual Concert held on 27 September 2020

According to the National Council of Social Service’s (NCSS) Study on Public Attitudes towards Persons with Mental Health Conditions in 2017, 7 in 10 believed that persons with mental health conditions experience stigma and discrimination in their daily lives. More than 5 in 10 were not willing to work with, live with or live near someone with a mental health condition. Beyond the Label (BTL) was launched in 2018 as a five-year initiative by the NCSS to fight stigma, encourage help seeking behaviours and advocate for the acceptance and inclusion of persons with mental health conditions.

The third edition of the BTL campaign kicked off on 24 September 2020 with a short film, The Clock. The film features a middle-aged Singaporean undergoing multiple stressors, including retrenchment and care-giving duties for his family. He seeks professional help and gets on the path to recovery with support from his family.

As part of the campaign, the BTL Fest took place virtually on 26 and 27 September 2020 with a series of online workshops, dialogue sessions, and a virtual concert that featured many celebrities including Stefanie Sun, Kit Chan and Taufik Batisah who showed support for the cause.

Going Beyond the Label—with music and outreach

In 2016, violinist and former national athlete Ms Eileen Chai stopped using social media, going out with friends, performing and speaking at events—all in fear of triggering a panic attack.

Through therapy with her psychiatrist and support from her husband, Eileen managed her anxiety and is now able to better manage her anxiety attacks.

“Everything takes time to heal and recover,” she says. “There’s no one solution. In my case, professional and family support was the best way to manage the situation.”

Four years later, she is hoping to help others with mental health conditions through music by her group 3am Music Collective.

The group performed selections from their 10-song album that shares the journey of those struggling with mental health conditions. It is based on the lived experiences of some members of the group.

3am Music Collective’s guitarist, advisor and publicist Mr Ivan Lim says, “There are multiple messages in all the tracks of the 10-song cycle. But the one message that I hope will stay with listeners, especially those with mental health conditions, is that they are not alone.”

Ivan was diagnosed with and treated for depression in 2001. The former entertainment editor for The New Paper was also struggling with alcohol addiction.

When asked what members of the public can do to support someone with mental health conditions, he says they should provide a listening ear and, if necessary, encourage them to seek professional help.

Eileen added on, “Keep an open mind, be empathetic and not judge, as we do not want to be labelled and we do not want to be stigmatised.”

Movement goes digital

In line with BTL’s outreach to youth to destigmatise conversations surrounding mental health, the campaign also features an e-Escape room created in partnership with Youth Alliance – a ground-up mental health committee catalysed by NCSS comprising government, healthcare and social service agencies. This online experience allows players to adopt different personas and learn about different mental health conditions including mood and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

As part of its ongoing efforts to provide easy access to mental health services and resources, BTL has also made enhancements to Belle, the Beyond the Label helpbot. Belle now comes with an enhanced feature that refers users to suicide prevention group Samaritans of Singapore if keywords alluding to suicidal tendencies are detected.

For more information on the Beyond the Label campaign, visit here.