Article written by Zachary Hourihane
Full Article by RICE Media
Photos by Zac Tan
Viaano’s Extracted Story:
“I’m intimately familiar with isolation, as I’ve always felt like the odd one out from a young age, with unsteady mental health due to severe anxiety. In general, I think Singaporeans are quite conservative and suspicious of mental health issues, like there’s some sort of don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. Certainly, there’s a stigma against getting professional help for mental turbulence.
At 18, I plucked up the courage to see a professional to try and conquer my anxiety. At that point, it was affecting me badly, and I couldn’t find a way out of this spiral. To be frank, the professional I encountered treated me quite badly, he turned me away because my ‘story’ wasn’t viewed as serious enough.
On top of that, I went alone because my parents weren’t entirely supportive—and they rejected me for that same reason too. It definitely felt like I was suffering unnecessarily, especially in hindsight, when I know now what a difference the right professional help can make.
A real turning point for me was an internship that had me working with mental health patients. I always heard mental health patients were unstable and untrustworthy, but these people were some of the loveliest and most genuine I had ever met. It was the opposite of what I had been taught to expect. These relationships broke down the stigma of mental illness in front of my eyes, and I felt so angry that the general awareness about these issues is so low in Singapore.
If I had access to the right care when I was younger I could have been spared a whole lot of heartache and loneliness. But this angst inspired me to effect change in my own way. During NS, I spent every weekend brainstorming how I could help destigmatize mental health issues for young Singaporeans. I started a group chat on Telegram where my peers could talk anonymously about their struggles. It moved to Discord and then it really took off during COVID-19.
Recently, I took the plunge and followed my passion, dropping out of my psychology degree program to build this platform into a reliable resource called Huddlehumans. The conversations I’ve been able to moderate and participate in have been truly amazing. Sometimes a listening ear is all it takes. I guess I was all alone at the beginning of my journey, but now, I feel connected.”