For years, TOUCH Youth Intervention (TYI), a youth service of TOUCH Community Services, has provided counselling and programmes for at-risk youths – focusing on cyber wellness, behavioural, character and leadership development as well as mental health, among other youth issues. Noticing a rise in youth mental health cases two years ago, TYI formed a team to look into the issue. While traditional lecture-style workshops held in schools are the norm, they sought to go beyond simply showing videos in a classroom.
And that’s why the Mental Health team created an innovative experiential programme comprising a series of station activities/games (carried out in partnership with the TOUCH Adventures team) and a virtual reality immersive module. The team has since reached out to over 1,600 students, helping them to experience and better understand the challenges faced by people with mental health issues. All by asking one simple question: Do You M.I.N.D.?
What sets this programme apart is its immersive experience – with an information retention rate of 75%, as opposed to only 5% and 10% for lecture-style learning and reading respectively. It helps to evoke empathy, and urge people to seek help immediately.
To get a deeper understanding of how this team works together to empower young lives, we speak to Andrea Chan (Head, TOUCH Youth Intervention), Pam Kaur (Manager, Mental Health), Joel Wong (Social Worker, Mental Health), Naomi Toh (Executive, Mental Health), and Peggy Lim (Social Worker, Mental Health).
Meet the team behind Do You M.I.N.D.?
[(Standing, L-R) Peggy Lim and Andrea Chan; (Sitting, L-R) Pam Kaur, Joel Wong, and Naomi Toh.]
Hello! Please tell us how your different job roles come together as one in this project.
Andrea: Do You M.I.N.D.?
is a collaborative journey that starts with advocacy, then education and finally, intervention. Pam is in charge of marketing, Naomi conducts pre- and post-programme research, Joel handles case management, while Peggy performs interventions.
And Andrea is our expert in mental health, who supplies the programme content.
Thus, our team has a gatekeeper at every milestone! Together, we strive to constantly improve the programme – through learning from survey results, as well as counselling sessions.
The TYI Mental Health team strives to enhance the Do You M.I.N.D.? experience by working together.
[(L-R) Joel Wong, Peggy Lim and Pam Kaur.]
What’s the greatest success you’ve experienced as a team?
Despite our diverse expertise, we’re still a lean team. And we’ve had to work extra hard to conduct activities for schools – often for 120-180 students at a time. But based on our pre- and post-programme surveys, we’ve seen that knowledge and perception has improved significantly! That’s what our team sees as the ultimate objective – and greatest achievement.
We’ve also received a lot of media coverage – resulting in many people calling us for help. That’s definitely a positive sign for mental health advocacy.
Through the highs and lows, how have each of you supported one other as a team?
We go for tea breaks! We all find comfort in food… But on a more serious note, I think it helps that none of us are too territorial about our work. Everyone helps everyone.
Yes, I think we’re all quite interdependent, even beyond this team. Everyone at TOUCH offers strong support – so we never work alone! Open communication also helps us work in a way that our strengths complement each other.
These supportive, like-minded colleagues motivate each other to further drive mental health education, every day.
[(L-R) Naomi Toh, Peggy Lim and Andrea Chan.]
What have you learnt from your teammates during this journey?
Joel: I used to be a volunteer for the Light of Hope Runs (a part of TOUCH Youth’s mental health programme), and back then, I just needed to make sure that the runs simply happen. But now, as the newest full-time member of the team, my colleagues have taught me how to go beyond the job – to ensure that everyone gets all the help they need to succeed in life.
Peggy: Through clinical supervision with Andrea, I learnt to be courageous – to take the leap and discover new grounds in my counselling sessions. Working with a team of experts helps us all improve at our individual roles.
What was an especially inspiring moment you experienced with Do You M.I.N.D.?
Peggy: During the second run of our support groups, I had trouble managing the behaviour of several teenage boys. But one day, I decided to abandon the lesson plan and just talk to them. All I did, was ask them a few important questions. And soon, they began giving honest responses – about how most of them didn’t feel ready to share private issues with the group. But in revealing that, everyone got comfortable in sharing their stories. This incident reminded me that sometimes, this is more than just a programme, and more than just KPIs. Instead, it’s about the relationships we build with each client.
Andrea: This project inspires us every day as it’s an attempt at shaping the next generation – by getting rid of the mental health stigma. It’s very difficult to teach old dogs new tricks, so we focus on the younger ones!
Beyond just educating the youth, Do You M.I.N.D.? has also enabled
the Social Service Professionals to fulfil their career aspirations.
[(L-R) Naomi Toh and Andrea Chan.]
Last, but not least: What’s a fact about the Social Service Sector that people should be more aware of?
I’d like others to know that Social Service is far from a retirement village! In fact, I work a lot harder here than I did in my previous corporate jobs. We really go beyond our job scopes and portfolios – all to meet the needs of the community. It can be challenging, but it’s definitely exciting!
Before I entered the Social Service industry, I had the misconception that youths can be quite indifferent and often annoying (maybe because of my younger brother!) But since then, I’ve learnt that they can be quite sensitive – and it’s up to us to build rapport with them and help them get better.
In my time as both a volunteer and a full-time Social Service Professional, I’ve realised that we can never do too much. And that’s how we can make a lasting impact in the lives of others.
What does it take to make a difference as a Social Service Professional? Watch our video about The Team That Makes Lives Count here