In the first detailed interview of #StoriesBreakStigmas, we catch up with Porsche Poh, founder of Silver Ribbon (Singapore) to learn more about her challenges and goals as a changemaker in the mental health scene in Singapore. Silver Ribbon (Singapore) is a non profit organisation set up in 2006 to combat mental health stigma and encourages early treatment and facilitate integration of people with mental illness within the society through innovative means of promoting mental health literacy.
Porsche won the Singapore Woman Award in 2013 and The Straits Times (all photo credits go to ST) also previously interviewed her about her work in trying to remove mental health queries on job forms and in spending time with the vulnerable during festive seasons.
Despite her numerous accolades for her work in the mental health scene, Porsche remains humble and eager to serve the needs of those struggling with mental illnesses and equipping those who want to help. (More details about programs available with the Silver Ribbon at the end of the interview)
Why did you start the Silver Ribbon and is there a special meaning behind the name?
While Silver Ribbon Coalition was founded by Ms Jean Singleton Liechty in 1993, Silver Ribbon (Singapore) was initiated by Ms Helen Lee, Ms Sally Choo and myself and launched by Former President Mr S R Nathan on 4 Feb 2006 to combat mental health stigma and encourage early help.
We started it because we were extremely concerned when we observed during our employment at the Institute of Mental Health that due to stigma, many Singaporeans were uncomfortable to come forward to seek help and discuss about mental health issues.
What were some difficulties you faced in setting up the Silver Ribbon?
When we first set up Silver Ribbon (Singapore), we were struggling with limited support and manpower. A large corporation responded to our email stating that they would not support any mental health events and/or to be associated with any mental health organisations.
Through the Silver Ribbon, you have addressed several gaps in the mental health space like providing free counseling and conducting Mental Health First Aid training. From your experience, what other gaps do we need to address in the mental health scene?
Thank you so much for learning about and listing out some of our programmes and services. Silver Ribbon (Singapore) will continue to work closely with its partnering organisations to identify and address those gaps to serve the community better.
At this moment, we hope to enhance
- employment opportunities so that persons with mental health issues would be able to overcome financial difficulties and improve the quality of their lives,
- help-seeking behaviour so that persons with mental health issues will feel comfortable and encouraged to continue their treatment, and
- mental health literacy among the community so that the general public would understand the importance of mental health, able to look out for warning signs and seek early help.
Who inspires you and why?
The fighting spirit of persons with mental health issues as they move on with their life despite of those challenges.
What is one piece of advice you have to give to fellow caregivers like yourself?
Believe in whatever you are doing. Don’t give up!
Services available at the Silver Ribbon (Singapore):
- Mental Health First Aid Course
- Complimentary Counselling Services
- Support for Ambulatory Services
- Job Placement for People with Mental Health Issues
- Support for Offenders with Mental Health Issues
Are you struggling or think you might be struggling with a mental illness?
- Check these warning signs (or drop me an email if you are unsure/scared/feeling alone)
If you, or someone you know, has suicidal tendencies, reach out for help at the following hotlines:
- Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
- CHAT @ *SCAPE: (+65) 6493 6500, (+65) 6493 6501