NEWS: Film Festival to Tackle Mental Health in Singapore

4 January 2019


NEWS: Film Festival to Tackle Mental Health in Singapore

Mental health is a topic most Singaporeans are familiar with, yet much stigma hangs over it. Many who struggle with mental health issues would find it difficult to confess the words above, with even loved ones.

Recent studies show a growing trend towards mental health issues, and ironically, unchanging negative attitudes towards individuals with these issues. For example, The Singapore Mental Health Study 2010 states that 1 in 8 Singaporeans have a mental disorder; with the three most common being Major Depressive Disorder, Alcohol Abuse, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Another recent study on quality of life by The National Council of Social Services (NCSS) in 2018 also showed that persons with mental health conditions face challenges living with dignity largely due to the negative attitudes of others. Many do not feel accepted by those around them. Findings from the study also showed that 6 out of 10 believe that mental health conditions are caused by a lack of self-discipline and willpower and that more than 5 in 10 are not willing to live, live nearby or work with someone with a mental health condition.

The Singapore Mental Health Film Festival (SMHFF) aims to tackle these negative attitudes and lack of awareness through the medium of film. Running from 21-24 February 2019 at The Projector, the festival will feature 7 different Asian and Western films, highlighting different mental health issues, such as dementia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and more.

During in-depth panel sessions, the festival will also bring together mental health professionals across various specializations from the Institute of Mental Health, The Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT), Singapore Association for Mental Health, and more, as well as moderators such as local media icon Anita Kapoor and Noorlinah Mohamed – a multi-award winning theatre actress -to discuss these issues with the audience in an approachable manner. “Having experienced various mental health issues, I recognise the difficulty in speaking about this condition that’s innate and personal. I envision a world where persons with disabilities of all sorts will be heard and seen without fearing judgement or discrimination”, said Cheryl Tan, festival director and founder of The Breathe Movement, the organisation behind the festival.

As part of the festival, the SMHFF has also begun a series of youth outreach programmes. Workshops featuring different modalities of mental health care such as body sculpturing, yoga, guided meditation and craft will also run during the festival, with the aim of helping individuals to raise their emotional resiliency. Ahead of the festival, the SMHFF has been running a social media campaign on Instagram and Facebook inviting individuals to share their personal stories anonymously of their struggles with mental health, and what they wish others would know about them. Read the personal stories here.

The second part of the social media campaign #MyMentalCare invites individuals to explore self discovery and care for their own mental health and emotions through film. This campaign aims to generate conversations by using film themes, asking the individual to acknowledge their own fears, discomfort and vulnerabilities, approaching them with healthy boundaries. The campaign can be found on their microsite.

The SMHFF is supported by the Tote Board Healthcare Fund, Our Singapore Fund, and National Youth Fund; sponsored by BinjaiTree, and Profile Search and Selection; partnered by the National Council of Social Service, Community Health Assessment Team, Singapore Association for Mental Health, Embassy of Sweden, High Commission of Canada, and more. It is organised by Cheryl Tan, festival director and founder of The Breathe Movement, the organisation behind the festival.

Contemplative empath who sees wonder in the curious world. Has a habit of hiding behind books and occasionally dabbles in games, Netflix and YouTube. Is permanently attached to bubble tea.
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