By Shaikha Salma Binte Mahmud
I found out about Club HEAL through my friend Hazirah. I researched further about it and there was something that attracted me to it, like I was destined to stumble upon it for reasons that I did not know of then. When I first thought about doing my internship with Club HEAL, a lot of thoughts went through my mind. Personally, I was never quite interested in clinical psychology, or interested about learning about the various mental disorders.
However, I told myself that I was going to challenge myself and try to better understand mental issues, despite my initial hesitance to do so. Doing psychology, I learnt about the various mental issues, mostly in theory, but never really had any real life experience, except maybe knowing people who had mental issues, without any deeper understanding regarding it. Hence, trying to understand people with mental issues was one of the main motivating factors for me taking up this internship. Despite there being no wages for serving Club HEAL, my intention was to gain new experiences and to better understand this issue. I once thought that people with mental issues are probably a lot different than those who are ‘normal’. Little did I know that the concept of ‘normal’ would be shattered before my very eyes during my time there.
Just a few sessions with Club HEAL, and I could already paint a clearer picture of how mental issues are really like. I enjoyed interacting with my peers from Club HEAL. I learnt that they were not necessarily ‘different’, but had different challenges, like how we all do. If anything, they have very pure and genuine hearts. The illusion of ‘normal’ was shattered and redefined in my mind. In many ways, I have come to realize that they are just like us. People with dreams and unwavering hope, they have people they care about and people who deeply care about them. For some, their life challenges seem much greater than us, whether the battles they go through are internal or external. However, the fact that they are able to stay patient and have not given up hope is something so admirable and inspiring to me.
It reminds me of what our beloved Prophet (pbuh) once said, “When Allah loves a servant, He tests him” [Tirmidhi]. I cannot help but to think that He must really love the people from Club Heal because of the different trials they go through, and because He has blessed them in such unique ways.
Some of the things I did during my internship included helping to facilitate the various activities and sessions they had, such as the expressive therapy sessions, the ball games and the coloring sessions. I also had the privilege of carrying out the Caregiver Survey, which is a collaboration between Club HEAL and NUS, to better understand caregivers of people with mental issues. That included meeting up with various caregivers and interviewing them about their experiences as a caregiver and also their well-being.
Club HEAL has taught me many priceless values, the most important one probably being the importance of being grateful and staying positive through life’s challenges. As humans, sometimes the tendency to complain or feel sad or frustrated is inevitable, what more with the fast-paced lifestyle we have here in Singapore, but spending time with people from Club HEAL has taught me to appreciate everything that I have been blessed with, such as a peaceful mind and heart. It has taught me to look around and smell the roses, to take things slowly and appreciate the people around me. It has shattered my own stereotypes about people with mental issues, as I now believe they are no more different than any of us, just faced with different unique challenges. One can even say they are mentally blessed.
It has also taught me the importance of taking care of our mental well-being, which is something we sometimes take for granted, such as taking care of our thoughts and being kind to ourselves. It has also taught me the existing stigma about people with mental illness, the unique challenges they face and how it is so important for us to eliminate this stigma and for the wider society to better understand people with mental illness.
All in all, the internship has definitely been an eye-opener to me, and I am now more interested in learning about clinical psychology, such as the different psychological therapies available for people with mental illness, and has motivated me to take up careers that would be as fulfilling and meaningful as how my internship has been. I will definitely try and come back to volunteer at Club HEAL, or pay a visit every once in a while, in hopes of helping them in one way or another, In Sha Allah.