Mental health is a human right

Illustrated poster for the Singapore Mental Health Film Festival

Dear Reader,

The past year has been tumultuous as the world that we once knew plunged into a space of chaos and uncertainty. From the lockdowns to social distancing rules, many of us were forced to temporarily part with our loved ones, both near and far. Personally, the pandemic proved to be extremely trying for me, with bouts of anxiety and depression that seeped into my being as I struggled to make sense of this new reality.

Fortunately, I had a few constants to hold on to—my partner, therapist, best friend, parents, and my daily self-care practices. Although we were all struggling in our own ways, we stood by each other to provide support and safe spaces for us to cry and laugh, while finding peace in our own situations.

Now, in 2021, the world is beginning to recognise mental health as a pivotal aspect of our human existence. But mental health is only possible if we, as individuals, step up to acknowledge our own mental states, to recognise that it’s okay to seek help. Through our individual acts, we create safe spaces where people can feel seen and listened to, where each and every one of us can thrive mentally and emotionally. Mental health is a human right, and it's also a personal responsibility.

The Singapore Mental Health Film Festival (SMHFF) started in 2018 because I felt the need to bring more conversations on mental health into the open. We need to understand the importance of self-care, and for parents, educators, adults who are in contact with children and youth to be cognizant of the delicacy of handling topics on mental health. We are working together with Ethos Books to pair each film with one of their books, as a way to offer another compelling perspective to its thematic concerns. While films bring imagery to life on screen, the written word provides opportunities for us to create our own visual imagery at our own pace and time. It also allows us to come back to the text at different points in our lives, and see how we have grown and changed.

On behalf of my team, I welcome you to join us in the conversations at the upcoming SMHFF 2021. We will dig deeper into topics like navigating the demands with change during and post-pandemic, workplace mental health, and creating a dementia-inclusive society. I hope to meet you at the Festival, be it physically or virtually.

See you soon!

Cheryl Tan
Executive Director
Singapore Mental Health Film Festival