Gratitude Changes Everything
Rosalind Pek’s resilience story:
“8 years ago, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Some of my darkest moments were lived through this period of intense struggles and it seemed that I don’t fit well into our fast-paced materialistic society. For too long, I had felt so much awkwardness about the ways where I thought I was different from so-called normal people.
And my attention was largely focused on what I lacked or was different from social norms. I came to accept, sadly, that the only places that could accept me were either the mental health institutions or hospitals. And it left me with little options as someone struggling with mental health challenges.
I was often misunderstood and/or marginalised within the community. It seemed, at that time, that recovery is a far-fetched hope and distant goal for me. I experienced being stigmatised by my own family members, relatives and friends who deemed my case as hopeless and abnormal. It seemed to me in my depressed state that no one understood my mental landscape, including myself.
It was a long and painful journey where I tried virtually every form of therapy that could help me get well. These included years of conventional psychological interventions, as well as alternative forms of therapies such as dance and art, homeopathy, studies in spirituality, Peer Support Specialist training and a few self-sponsored trips to the US.
It was there that I learned to equip myself as a trainer for 3 evidenced-based forms of Peer-led recovery models like Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), Intentional Peer Support (IPS) and Hearing Voices Network. (HVN)
I spent the first 2 years in recovery by serving as a volunteer in IMH and SAMH. As a result of my own lived experiences, I could walk in the shoes of someone struggling with mental and emotional issues. In the process of helping other peers, I made an important self-discovery; that is, the most important gift anyone can give me is their humanity and I felt the importance of recognising that.
In Singapore, there was a severe lack of peer support groups, Consumer Operated Service Providers (COSP) or Peer Respite Centres that struggling peers could turn to for help in Singapore. Fortunately I have a few friends, with similar conditions to mine, from Vermont, whom I reach out to for support during my darkest hours. These deeply compassionate individuals work for a Peer Support Centre in Vermont. They journey alongside peers to achieve mutual goals, assess options and discover new ways of thinking and doing things that works. In such a mutual process of recovery journey, both parties’ benefits and both learn from the process.
But, it saddens me to see the lack of such humanistic services within the mental health community in Singapore. Hence, I am deeply driven to introduce the COSP module here because I had personally benefited from such peer-led interventions and believe many peers in Singapore will benefit from it too.
I want to do my part in creating a safe space where every human, in every nook and corner, could receive the gift of authentic acceptance from other human beings and in turn offer that gift of compassion to others. My connection with the peer-led mental health movement with the peer community in Vermont have helped me to bring everyone closer to home and help to build an inclusive community here in Singapore as well.
My perspectives changed radically after joining Psaltcare as a volunteer. The Psaltcare community challenges the prevailing worldview of persons with mental health challenges – it is a safe and open community where we can be true to our intrinsic nature. We accept and encourage one another to discover our highest values and really live them.
Through the Peer Support meetings, we discover like-minded companions on our recovery journeys and realise that each of us have a wealth of “lived experiences” to encourage others through their struggles. We feel supported to have companions in our journey, and together we will forge new pathways to recovery.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Psaltcare committee members for allowing me the opportunity to facilitate the Singapore chapter of DBSA Peer Support group since 2014 and opportunities to support caregivers and peers in the community who are going through some major struggles in life.
It is my deepest hope and dream of building this vision of a Consumer Operated Service Provider (COSP) into a reality that helps to build a community where we truly belong – to help us in our healing journey and stay out of hospitals and institutions.
I hope we can take the risk together of rediscovering who we really are and trying to create a world that has room for all of us in our own uniqueness.
Rosalind has been the volunteer facilitator for Psaltcare since 2014, and leads the DBSA Peer Support Group. Her passion and dedication to help others has supported many peers in their recovery journey.
Chris Tan’s resilience story:
“In Oct 2005, my life was turned upside down after an acute right-brain stroke left me half paralyzed. Then in 2007, my ex-wife filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences. This marital shock, coupled with losing my job in the same year, sent me on a tailspin of Clinical Depression – which I have struggled with for the last 12 years. Coming to Psalt Care helped me to realize I wasn’t alone in my struggles. The fortnightly Peer Support group provided a safe space for me to share my struggles and learn from other peers with similar struggles like mine. Together, we become stronger and resilient to adversities.”
Chris is now a volunteer facilitator for Psaltcare and leads the Christian Peer Support Group. He has been a role model to many in his resilience to life challenges.
PSALT Care is a uniquely valued resource for peer support members in their journey to mental wellness and recovery. It adopts a person-centric approach that is bottom-up in orientation and grounded on volunteering facilitation and community building and offers a myriad of holistic therapies.
This approach is refreshing, effective and empowering for members in healing and leading dignified and fulfilling lives. It unites people, on the universality of their humanity, even as they encounter a diversity of emotional states and experiences.
Being peer support driven, there is a rich depth and myriad of personal experiences and challenges to draw upon. As well as being open, its welcoming and non-judgmental environment facilitates deep and honest discussions that are instrumental to recovery. This contrasts with typical therapeutic/institutional relationships which have asymmetry and hierarchy and can be restrictive in ways.
Critically it goes beyond purely diagnostic labels which can narrowly ‘straitjacket’ people and ultimately not be as productive in the process of recovery and mental wellness. While it is highly useful, it is imperative to understand the nature of the condition – traditionally prescribed labels are limiting.
PSALT Care’s practice of adopting life affirming values-nomenclature such as “mental wellness” “recovery” and “condition” leads to both more respectful, humanistic interactions as well as fruitful outcomes, as borne by the recovery journeys and stories of members. It recognizes the humanity and suffering that is also universal and an integral part of the spectrum of human experiences.
Consequently, there are dedicated facilitators with extensive knowledge, training and skills as well as crucially lived experiences. For facilitators, this combines both theoretical knowledge and training as well as deep practical experiences. The passion and compassion that the facilitators bring are refreshing and enriching.
This is exemplified by Rosalind Pek, who has been colossal and integral in the PSALT Care efforts from its inception and rapid growth today. Her outstanding commitment and care for PSALT Care members has fostered closeness and encouraged community. The group is supported by other able and dedicated peer support facilitators like Chris and Deborah. Providing more well deserved resources will enable more to be done.
Thus far, I have personally only attended maybe 4 sessions in total, yet have found all to be useful and enriching in their own way. Those attended included two support sessions, art therapy and most recently an introduction to WRAP. I look forward in time to exploring the diversity of other programmes on offer such as PEERLY HUMAN and Zentangle among others.
The diversity of these courses is wonderful, providing a myriad of holistic therapies that has something that is catered to everyone that they may find beneficial. The gamut of activities that are being organised – from peer support sessions, to sports and even public speaking is indeed refreshing.
It would be appreciated if PSALT Care could also explore practical driven sessions focused on techniques as well as leveraging on individual strengths and unique talents. For example, courses on how to manage challenging thoughts and emotions and seek to direct it towards fruitful behaviour and outcomes. These could include therapies and modalities such as ACT as well as CBT. Other therapies/techniques beyond the traditional would also be welcome.
In this regard the introduction to WRAP was also very useful and practical.
Through the courses, peer support members can also discuss what worked for them and did not. This includes understanding whether certain programmes were constructive and their experiences.
For leveraging on strengths, having members identify areas they are talented in or passionate about and finding practical, systematic ways to utilize that in their personal and professional lives. Beyond techniques, drama and experiential therapies could also be useful to explore.
The grander goal is of education and empowerment – both within PSALT Care and beyond to the wider society. This includes continuing to grow and build as well as to connect with other wellness groups. Moving beyond the walls of PSALT Care, we could endeavour to educate and inform wider public society on the diversity of mental conditions – removing stigma, shame, disinformation, distrusting and negative attitudes. We could try to correct mind-sets that people who have faced these challenges are inherently defective.
On the contrary, peers exhibit great courage and resilience to persist and have deep compassion. We need the community to understand that every single person with cognition has mental health issues.
We should at least appreciate, if not celebrate, that the human condition invariably has a spectrum of emotions/feelings – joy, sadness, anger, etc. [All the emoticons on WhatsApp and beyond ;)] As well as that suffering/trauma is an inevitable part of that experience as well as fellow travellers.
In summary, I personally appreciate the great work of PSALT Care’s community efforts and desire to see more resources and support being made available for mental health recovery.
“Getting connected with Psaltcare has been my greatest blessing since I returned to Singapore after working overseas for some time. It has greatly helped me break away from painful attachments, unrealistic expectations, and delusional thoughts. It has allowed me to better understand my inner self and awaken to my true nature.
My continual participation in Psaltcare and interactions with the peers constantly inspire and touch me at a level beyond words can describe. ”
I chanced upon Psalt Care one day about 2 months ago through Google. I thought that I would give it a try and I attended one of their meetings. Being a person who suffers from social anxiety, I was pleasantly surprised that I felt at ease at the meeting.
I was able to open up because I felt like I was with people of similar conditions who would not judge me. To know that I am not suffering alone meant a lot to me. The peers and members of Psalt Care are always so supportive. I know that they will be around to encourage and support me whenever I am triggered or have one of my panic attacks.
I am so elated and moved by Psalt Care sponsoring me for the highly therapeutic Zentangle class. The class was very affirming because all our art work were displayed for others to view.
I hope to be able to one day master my psychological challenges through my being a member of this caring family.
Some time back, I searched online for a depression support group. I came across Psalt Care. Finding Psalt Care was a lifesaver for me because I was attempting suicide at that time.
They got in touch with me and arranged for a psychologist to meet up with me. My first session was extremely painful for me as I opened up my deepest wounds to someone I didn’t know too well. Gradually, I got better. I was encouraged by the psychologist to attend the support group session.
The first Psalt Care Session I attended was facilitated by Rosalind. She has this innate ability to help people feel okay with their depression because she suffered from it as well. To me, Rosalind is a god send. I met her when I was at the deepest trough of my life.
By the 3rd and 4th session with my psychologist along with attending regular support group meetings, I felt much more affirmed in my life direction.
I am no longer attending PsaltCare session as I am so much more aware of my life situation and emotions. I apply the coping strategies taught by PsaltCare to deal with the downs in my life.
I will always be grateful to Rosalind and Psalt Care for helping me come to terms with my psychological ailment, depression, that is still stigmatized and inadequately addressed in Singaporean society.
There was a time when I felt so lost and was looking for a support group to share my pain and agnony with. I discovered Psalt Care and found many kind and helful peers who extended their hands to help me go through that dark period of my life.
“Just about 4 months ago, I got acquainted with the Psalt Support Group and it has changed my life. Back then, still racked with the demons of my clinical depression, Ros, Vincent and Chris patiently, lovingly, compassionately replied my messages on whatsapp. I felt supported. Meeting Ros, the hurricane and leader of our not so small a group was quite a thing. In person, Ros is forceful and yet caring. The psychological hard knocks in her life, 8 years of depression, has given her strength.
Sincere, ardent, unrelenting in pursuing the group’s mission- “peers who all have lived experience supporting each other through each other’s worst times”.–I find Ros despite her sometimes sharp curves/edges inspiring.
The greatest contribution that Psalt has had upon my life is more than the helpful meetings held forth nightly where knowledge such as coping skill, and maintaining homeostatsis are shared.
The greatest impact that Psalt group has had upon me is Relationship. Through it, I come to meet fellow peers who have suffered, and are suffering conditions similar to mine. I feel a sense of camaradie No one really judges another because everyone is in the same boat. I made quite so many new friends, and we really do have fun where we forget ourselves and our various issues.
I also have the relationship of Ros, and Chris who I trust cares about me.
Ros has shown us her full programme for this year, and it is just plain exciting. I really look forward to those activities and classes and I am sure my fellow peers do as well. There is just but one thing. We need funding. Whoever you are, wherever you may come from, know that your much needed funds will make a difference in the lives of not too small a number of people.
Psalt Group may not have been my total solution, but it was a major part of my solution. I am getting up on my feet already, and am looking to become a full time tutor and professional writer.”
I see PsaltCare as a place where hope is revitalized for the Peers it supports. In my opinion, Psalt Care fills a glaring gap that the current mental health scene has failed to fill. It is a place for fellow peers to gather and support each other.
I have been a regular participant in both the Peer Support group as well as its Christian Support Group held monthly where I have seen for myself how peers help and support one another. Psaltcare also offer ample opportunities and subsidies for peers to explore holistic alternatives such as Psychodrama, Zentangle and Somatic dance, aiding our recovery journey.
I sincerely hope our donors will be generous in their donations so that Psaltcare can continue to deliver the support and programmes that has helped so much in my recovery journey.
“The Psalt support group is a wonderfully supportive and encouraging community. It provides a unique and open platform for members to share their experiences, concerns, challenges in a non judgemental manner. This provides a conducive atmosphere to find constructive solutions to manage one’s conditions and life challenges. Ros, Chris and other dedicated facilitators have deep insight borne from their own and collective experiences and knowledge gathered.
Read More... – N.V.
A little less than a year ago, following a series of emotionally and mentally drained events. I knew that I needed to find the strength to continue living. Out of sheer desperation, I came upon PSALT Care peer support.
Over the past 6 months, Rosalind, Chris and Vincent from PSALTCare who were volunteering for it has led and shared their valuable insights and knowledge on coping skills with myself and other peers who have similar mental health struggles. From their valuable sharing, I have had a better understanding of my own suicidal idealization which preoccupies my mind. From them I learnt how to manage it.
Through the Psalt Care sessions conducted, I have better understand the compulsive thoughts that I keep dwelling upon and to refrain from my self harm rituals. The old adage ” A sick mind does not know its sick” holds revelatory significance to me. Whether as it applies to my personal or professional life, I have learnt valuable lessons on how to manage my own thoughts, to watch them from a different perspective through Psalt Care. This insight has helped me develop some fair amount of refrain towards performing my usual self harm rituals
Importantly, Psalt Care frequently brings in other therapists such as Sarah Knutson and Dr Chiang Wai Fong whose philosophies and ideas have shown me different approaches to tackling my mental struggles. They show me a path of self healing, and gives me the tools necessary to walk my recovery journey.
I am truly grateful for the priceless gift that Psalt Care has given me, in the form of my experiences of recovery. I want to say a Big Thank You to Psalt Care and all those who have helped me on my way.
– C. Whye
Even though I have only joined PSALT Care for 2 sessions so far, I have gained a lot of perspective from all the stories shared. The strength and fortitude displayed by each participant has gotten me through my own dark moments. I feel very fortunate to have discovered PSALT care, and it will be a core part of my support option as I cope and recover from my tendencies towards anxiety.
– Ben F.