If curiosity didn’t kill the cat, what did?
On the contrary, fresh curiosity might be the needful, ingenious antidote to heal the world today.
You would think Tom* has it easy. After graduation, he is just starting out in life, holding a 9 to 5 job. He lives with his family, and meets up with his friends often.
Such a life certainly looks good on the outside. But it is often what we don’t see that is the most important.
It is easy for Tom to compare the highlight reels of someone else’s insta-worthy life with the lowest moments of his own.
Tom has difficulty sleeping at night. He became highly irritable at work and had difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions. He is often restless and has been having prolonged headaches without a clear physical cause. Occasionally, he has thoughts of death and suicide.
Real life, as we know it, is seldom easy. The hardest battles are from within.
The media release from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) backs this up.The study, said to be last updated in September 2016, underlines how most people suffering from a mental illness had their first onset of illness when they were in their twenties.
That is the decade of youth and glory on the outside, but also of struggles and conflicts on the inside.
That’s how early we start.
The road to recovery has been challenging due to the invisibility of mental illness. Those diagnosed with disorders are unable to reach out, and the community is unable to reach in. In Singapore, the three most common disorders are Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Alcohol Abuse and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
For Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), symptoms can be so subtle on the outside. It can be a loss in appetite or the fear of losing or not having things you might need. These signs show and worsen over time.
The same study also revealed that MDD was the most common mental illness in Singapore. 5.8% of the adult population in Singapore suffered from MDD at some time in their lifetime. In the previous 12 months (prior to the survey), 2.2% of the adult population had MDD.
For mental disorders, curiosity might just save the cat.
It is when we have the strong desire to know what has been going on in the lives of others and ourselves. Curiosity is the fuel to travel up the road of recovery.
Curiosity also opens up the window to our souls. That inquisitive questioning draws out the need to spend more time on ourselves, to rest. It is when our listening ear has to listen for the heart as well.
When we get the space and peace to go beyond hearing to listening, perhaps we will be able to spot signs of anxiety disorders within and around us.
#firstworldproblems may not be that fleeting after all.
The study has also discovered a huge gap in help-seeking behaviour (also known in the scientific literature as the “treatment gap”) exists for the majority of mental illnesses. This means that people with mental illness were not seeking professional help.
Not only is there a huge leap to take from mental illness and professional treatment, there is also a wide gap between mental illness and reintegration.
In another recent article by The Straits Times last year, NCSS polled 477 people who are recovering from mental health issues such as mood and anxiety disorders or schizophrenia last year. It was said that Seven in 10 people with mental illness believe they are stigmatised by society, while slightly more than half have problems joining community events.
Furthermore, seven in 10 also revealed that they had problems "living with dignity" because of the attitudes and actions of others, meaning they do not feel accepted by society or that they can contribute meaningfully to it.
It takes much more to narrow the gap that mental illnesses draw out.
The Peer Support Specialist Programme concretely crafted to provide opportunities for persons with mental health issues to leverage on their lived experience of recovery. By supporting others in their recovery journey, they are also being equipped with competencies as a Peer Support Specialist.
Targeted at the entire recovery-oriented eco-system, the programme further prepares social service organisations in creating an inclusive and supportive work environment towards peer support workforce. Therefore, organisational staff will also be trained.
Perhaps in the age of information-overload today, what kills the cat is inaction and not curiosity.
*Tom is a fictional character based on true accounts for illustration purposes.
Useful links and references