Teaching Gen Z how to breathe

Ask SYNC’s volunteers what they think of mental healthcare and they’ll tell you, in these strange times, it’s an urgent priority.

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  • Made new friendships
  • Developed new skills

“Find something to cope, a better way to cope, or seek help. You got to speak up and ask for help. Because you cannot go through it alone.” Those words came from a 14-year-old girl. A recovered beneficiary who, through SYNC, is now empowering others to reach out.

Closing the gap between youths and therapy

Here we are, past a time when matters of the mind were heavily stigmatised. Today, SYNC (Strengthening Youths in a Network of Care) and its founders Narash and Nicole are committed to open people’s minds about mental healthcare: They’re bringing therapeutic resources to the youths’ screens. They’re hanging out with them. They are friends, with the benefits of a counsellor.

“When we started to try to get a youth to a clinic, the wait time for an appointment was three months… Mental health doesn’t wait,” shares Nicole. “Our main focus of starting SYNC was to improve the accessibility of mental health services.”

What was meant as a short-lived project teaching youths coping mechanisms quickly became a non-profit organisation (made possible by the Our Singapore Fund). “We were stuck at home during COVID, right? And then we realised, ‘Hey, a lot more people needed such mental healthcare… COVID is really getting to everybody. Many youths will be affected. Let’s start really doing something tangible for the youths and the children,” Narash explains.

SYNC

Meet founders Narash and Nicole who are empowering youths with mental health coping techniques

Empowering youths and young volunteers through mental healthcare

With volunteers spanning backgrounds from Criminology to Psychology and other related fields, this 110-strong organisation compensates for manpower issues that may put one on a waitlist. But to be clear, their goal isn’t to re-invent the wheel of counselling or psychotherapy. Just to fill the gaps.

“We’re just taking certain coping resources and teaching them to [our volunteers] as a skill,” shares Narash. “We are empowering young volunteers to use therapeutic skills, which are transdiagnostic in nature—”

Transdiagnostic? “What it means is that these skills are not specific to one particular mental health disorder,” Nicole shares. “These skills can be applied across any mental health disorder or distress the youths are facing. It doesn’t even have to be diagnosed.”

Putting youths on the road to recovery

This passion for the mental well-being of the young has reaped results: “One of the girls we were working with — she has PTSD from witnessing and being part of a history of family violence. But she wasn’t about to tell anybody what happened.”

But through her time spent with SYNC, “now she feels a little bit more managed and knows what’s happening to her. She’s more open to seeing a psychologist, a therapist— she’s even more open to her school counsellor.”

Such results stem from their novel approach to Gen Z. They’ve made outreach easy, even casual, through WhatsApp and face-to-face meet-up’s. “We have been able to meet the youths and to provide dinner or lunch or breakfast; so that’s special when you’re meeting them,” Narash says.

Hopes for the future

When not out meeting youths these days, SYNC is planning to scale their current projects: They’re roping in more volunteers to engage the community as mental health advocates.

But the longer view is to demolish the barriers and normalise mental health. “There are a lot of resources out there on YouTube, websites and all. But I think for Singaporeans, we need to practise it and make it our lifestyle. If we start learning about ourselves, our mental health, we’ll be able to better care for it,” Narash says.

Sounds like a group for you? Visit Project SYNC’s Instagram (@hello.sync) or syncsg.org to learn more.

 

 

Details

Elderly
Making new friends