Movember – Interview with a psychologist

Movember is about raising funds and awareness of mens health and towards that end below is my interview with Moses Chew Li Huei about mens metal health and depression.

This is the fourth time I have done Movember all the other times I ahem raised money but not really awareness. This time I have the chance to do so much more. One of the things about working for a multinational corporation is the super networks they put in place for their employees. This allowed me to get in touch with Moses and ask about mens mental health and depression.

From the Movember website:

Researchers estimate that around one in five people in Singapore will suffer from anxiety and/or depression in the next 12 months

I have heard the 1 in 3 people in their lifetime will suffer from depression but the 1 in 5 in the next 12 months really shocked me.

Well before we start the more accurate and up-to-date lifetime prevalence rates are 5.6% for depression and 12-mth prevalence is 2.2%.

Thanks for clarifying that for us. Moses, to start with please can you let us know what background do you have in mental health?

By training, I am a clinical psychologist, which simply means that I usually work with those who are struggling with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety issues and schizophrenia. In recent years, I have been seeing more clients from the corporate sector who are experiencing burn-outs, relationship, marital and parenting issues.

What are the things that are triggering what appears to be a high-level of depression in Singapore?

This is a difficult question to answer simply because there hasn’t been enough studies in Singapore exploring this area. However, in a study published in 2012, we have found the highest rates of depression among those who are young (between the ages of 18-34), which suggests some of the challenges associated with being in that stage of life (looking for employment, building a career, getting married, relationship issues, etc) may be a precipitant for depression. Another finding in the same study showed that those who were having marital problems which eventually end in divorce or separation also tended to experience much higher rates of depression.

What signs should people look for in themselves that would mean they need to reach out for help?

One of the major things that often affects stressed individuals may be problems with sleep. Some individuals struggle with falling asleep while others are able to fall asleep but may have disturbed sleep or may wake up earlier than intended and not being able to fall asleep again. Others may notice a decrease in concentration, energy levels and appetite. This may also be coupled with an increase in anger and cynicism at work which results in irritability and intolerance of what is perceived to be incompetent performance. I have often heard of staff telling me that they may “snap” at colleagues or managers. 

What sign should you lookout for in your friends or colleges that might mean they need help?

The most important thing to look out for, in addition to the above behaviours and mood changes, would be friends or colleagues who are slowly but gradually isolating themselves. Many individuals who suffer from depression begin to slowly withdraw themselves from others, often without their own conscious awareness. They may initially refuse to go out for team lunches or may even choose to skip lunches or meals just to work through the day. Others may say that they “don’t feel like” going out with friends or would prefer to be alone. We should be particularly wary if this is coupled with other warning signs such as low mood, feelings of guilt, fatigue, falling sick often, distrust or if there is a sudden change in behaviour without any observable causes.

If you are not lucky enough to have a program provided by your company to support you, who can you reach out to?

Singapore has a number of organisations seeking to reach out to individuals in distress such as:

Institute of Mental Health hotline – 6389-2222 (24/7)
Samaritans of Singapore – 1-800-221 4444
Counselling and Care Centre – 6536-6366
Care Corner – 1-800-353 5800

Moses thank you for your time and insights.

I hope that this has raised your level of awareness of metal health both for men and women, especially the warning signs to look out for.

If you would like to give to my movember fund raising please click here.

7 thoughts on “Movember – Interview with a psychologist

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  1. Interesting about the stats reported. I’ve always thought 1 in 5 per year was a bit suspicious. If a whole 20% of humans experience some particular mental or emotional state in each twelve month period then it seems to me we should think of that mental/emotional state as being within the normal range (albeit down the sucky end). 2.2% makes much more sense – you’re actually getting a couple of standard deviations away from the mean there.

    Great interview, good information.

    1. 20% down to 2.2% is clearly a big drop, I’m guessing that there is an element of choosing the stats that support your case and at least in this case it is for a good cause.

      Thank you, my first “serious” piece

  2. The one thing I hear often from my clients, recovering mental health patients, is that often they wait unnecessary long to get help, as they are afraid of the stigma of “being crazy”. At least in this part of the world it is still very common for people to get comments like “just pull yourself together”. To me it is so sad, and I believe the only way to change that is to raise awareness of what mental health problems are, that nobody can just choose not to have them, and that they can hit anyone. So thanks for raising awareness!

    1. There is clearly a stigma and it is one of those topics that people just don’t talk about. Even with movember I’m not sure I have had conversations about it in previous years, you just say your doing it to raise awareness but don’t talk about it.

  3. 1 in 3 is really scary. But I believe so. I think many people avoid seeking mental health experts for many reasons. One of it is trouble with buying health insurance. If people do not want to seek experts, they should go talk to close friends and families to get support or just to talk things out to straighten their thoughts or find comfort through talking.

    1. That is true but with some of these phone numbers I don’t think that you have to give a name and so you can talk to someone without it being official or on record.

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