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Collective Healing: A Call for a Different National Service

Updated: May 4, 2021

by Charlotte Goh, Founding Member, The Brilliant Foundation

SINGAPORE - My friend and fellow Arts for Good practitioner Stef Turner, said to us during a Zoom call last week, that so many of us are running, so fast, and many of us just want to take a breath. To really STOP… and breathe.

Such has been this year. It is only April, and it seems that the usual slower months of January and February never happened, and didn’t ease us into the new year.

On the same day, someone asked me for my humble opinion (he was asking many people in the community): What can we do to help enable mental wellness in Singapore? I am not an expert but I know that there is much awareness on the importance of prevention as well as intervention. We are mostly well aware of the potential external factors that can affect our intra-personal relationship and expectations of self, and we are also aware of the importance and availability of resources for intervention.

When an individual is down, for whatever reason or health outcome, the ripple effect on the immediate system is huge; everyone in that system is affected.

Likewise, it is the power of the systems around that individual that can heal us.

There are strong thought articles about collective healing. This sharing here stems from a simple place from within that sees us as a part of a larger whole; of a family, of a neighbourhood, of a school, of a company, of a community of people who care for each other, right up to us being part of the nation and the larger world. Beth Tener shared about the ‘we’ versus ‘me’ in her article on collective healing.

When we start seeing that we are a collective whole, then we will start to see our neighbour who is sliding or our friends who remain silent about the turmoil within, and we don’t only see, we start to care.

I realise that collective healing requires us to be brave.

My personal photo of my father who has dementia with his grandson

Even as I write this, I haven’t been the bravest. I grapple with respecting the privacy and the space they have carved around themselves, to protect themselves, and whether I should come in, again, to say that I know you are hurting, how can I help. I don’t have the answers because every intervention, every act of care and love is held in a different context. I have to keep trusting that my act of care and love is from an authentic and genuine space. And when the person I care about is ready, I am ready to sense that.

If I need to be brave, what would help me be a better responder?

Remember national service? It’s our collective response to our national security. Many years ago at 16 years old, I wrote to the forum in the newspaper suggesting that women can also contribute to national service. At that time, I suggested women learning first aid, CPR and basic weaponry to support the men. (oh, how young and naïve!)

But right now, for our nation’s collective response to mental wellbeing, national service can take on a different practice; to learn to be first responders.

(National Service here is not government. It is the ‘me’ in the ‘we’ and the ‘us’ as a whole, it’s our nation’s collective response and service for each other)

Whether we are apathetic or indifference, or hyperactive to support, knowing what it takes to be a first responder to mental wellness issues will enable each of us to somehow provide greater support for others around us, but also hopefully enable each of us to notice the signs of our own state of mental wellbeing.

True. Many people suffering, suffer in silence. When I was going through the years of my eating disorder, I didn’t want to talk about it, because I couldn’t get out of it. Talking about it would only expose my ‘weakness’ more.

Yet, I was dying to have a voice. To put words to what I was going through. My experience was swept under the carpet as if it didn’t exist. People knew, but kept quiet. Masks and facades. And yes, I had a large part to play in this cocoon I built for myself. But, if only more people asked me if I was ok…..maybe it wouldn’t have taken 20 years.

Being a first responder in mental wellbeing, hopefully will allow us to give voice to suffering, to open up conversations that may shift perspectives, which may help in shifting limiting beliefs about self or the situation around us.

Voice is powerful. Voice stifled is also powerful.

We have the power as a community to heal. We can address this together as a whole. It calls upon us to be brave, to care for ‘us’, because, in the ‘us’ there is ‘me’ too.

-The Call-

Learning to be a first responder in curriculum in the education system or as part of corporate responsibility.

Your Brilliant Feedback

1. Do you identify with this article in relation to responding the mental health and well-being?

2. What can we do to help enable mental wellness in Singapore? Or in Australia?


In SINGAPORE – if you need help please go to Singapore’s website “I need help now” The website provides a list of organisations that provide the help that you need for your mental well-being.

Singapore Online Resources

In AUSTRALIA – go to the website Beyond Blue’s website for immediate mental and well-being support


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Copyright@The Brilliant Foundation


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