Editor’s Note: It was many months ago when I met Wei Lun and his team. They got in touch with us, wanting to understand more about mental illness in Singapore. It never ceases to amaze me how open and teachable these young people are. Despite initially not having the vocabulary to articulate their concerns, I could see how genuine and sincere their hearts were, especially knowing they had once witnessed depression first hand. Here’s wishing you all the best Project Dawn! Let’s serve this community together!

What inspired Project Dawn?

I had a friend who was working with me on an event. He suddenly became uncontactable midway, and all I could think was how irresponsible he was.

And then, I found out that he had depression.

It was a very trying period for him; he was losing friends and loved ones because nobody understood what he was going through, and I’m ashamed to say that I was one of them.

This made me realise that defining people based on these narrow slivers of their life does not do them justice. We need to put ourselves in their shoes in order to fully understand the reasons for their actions – which is why our extremely capable Project Dawn team decided to make this immersive exhibition a reality.

What do you think are pressing issues when it comes to mental illness and treatment?

We are grateful for the persons with mental illness who shared their experiences with us.

The isolation they face when traversing through their struggles—and the subsequent stigma—is a problem we aim to address. A recurring theme of stigmatization was the lack of social support from their friends and loved ones.

We also gathered that there is a tendency to downplay mental illness, and view it as a form of “weakness”. It is tough to battle an invisible monster, and this is exacerbated when everyone else insists that the monster doesn’t exist.

How can we as a society help people who are vulnerable to mental illness? 

For a start, we should treat them as human beings of equal standing as everyone. Give them a chance to rebuild their lives, and adapt to their conditions.

Of course, I am over-simplifying an extremely complex societal problem, but I have always believed that this basic respect for another individual is a stepping stone to the elimination of misunderstandings and stigma.

Project Dawn posterWhat is it like to suffer from mental illness? This is what Project DAWN sets out to accomplish. During the Student Life Fair on the 13th and 14th of August, 11am to 6pm, Stephen Riady Centre @ UTown, put yourselves in the shoes of Dawn, a girl suffering from generalised anxiety disorder, and see things from her perspective. projectdawnsg.wix.com/projectdawn

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