It’s been eight years since the passing of our only son. He ended his own life at the age of 26 after suffering from manic depression for many years. It was a very dark and difficult time for us. His passing also changed the course of our lives. Our son was a very caring and compassionate person. He once told us, while he was alive, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make a difference in someone’s life”.
His life and his legacy became our inspiration, and was the genesis of our family foundation, the WholeTree Foundation for Youth Wellness, and the Over-The-Rainbow, a youth mental wellness initiative.
Mental health is a clear and urgent issue in modern society. It’s the next major epidemic.
- Research has shown that one in four youths in the industrialised world suffers from some form of mental health issues while growing up.
- Youth suicides are going up steadily around the world. In Singapore, suicides for youths aged 10 -19 doubled year-after-year. Young people are increasingly engaging in self-harm.
- WHO has projected that by 2030, neurological disorders (including mental disorders) will be the #1 cause of disability and mortality worldwide. 22% of children in Singapore have suicidal thoughts.
- What we’re seeing is just the tip of the iceberg, as the stress of living in the modern society continues to grow. For many, life increasingly feels like a treadmill that they can’t get off, while others experience a growing sense of loneliness, isolation and disconnection despite living in an age of digital super-connectivity.
Mental disorder can afflict anyone anywhere – no one is immune. Yet it is the big elephant in the room that no one talks about, especially here in Asia – although this is slowly changing. Mental wellness is not just the absence of mental illness, but also the attainment of happiness and well-being.
The ensuing months after our son’s passing were a very dark time for us. But rather than heaping blame on ourselves and on each other – and pondering what should have been and what might have been – how we could have done things differently – regrets, which were easy to come by during those dark days – and which would have brought us to an even darker place – we decided to face the reality, to accept wholeheartedly our son’s decision and our own fate, and to support each other.
Early on, we realised also that perhaps that we are not alone – that he was not alone – that there are likely many other young people who suffer from depression or other forms of mental disorders. And we wanted to do something about it. This was the beginning of our healing and transformation. And this was what our son would have wanted.
Our journey so far has taken us to many places and communities, via the countless programmes that we organised to promote mental wellness, to create a supportive community, and to inspire and empower young people on their own life journey.
The importance of taking care of yourself through holistic self-care cannot be overstated. This means, taking care of yourself:
- Physically by listening to your body, getting sufficient sleep, ample exercise, good nutrition, healthy dose of sunshine, daily meditation;
- Intellectually, by maintaining a sense of curiosity, an appetite for learning new things, staying hungry and foolish;
- Emotionally, by letting go of toxic emotions, cultivating positive emotions of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, appreciation, forgiveness, gratitude, generosity, contentment, and inner peace;
- Socially, by making time for family and friends, giving support to and accepting support from others, contributing to the community, volunteering for a cause you believe in; and
- Spiritually, by living authentically – acting from your Deepest Truth, connecting to your Highest Self – knowing that we’re all connected – finding purpose, meaning, fulfillment.
Many have asked us: why “Over The Rainbow” (beside the fact that the song “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” was immortalised by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz”, and was one of our son’s favourites song)? The rainbow symbolises light and hope – that pot of gold on the other side of the rainbow. A rainbow only comes out after the rain. We wish to convey love and light – and the transformation from despair to hope. And even though you may not find that pot of gold – there are plenty of nuggets of gold to be discovered – in yourself – along this life journey. At every twist and turn in life is an opportunity to discover more of these nuggets, out of which we can learn and grow.
Dr. Wayne Dyer has it absolutely right, “Your life purpose is to serve and to give the best of yourself to the whole world, because you see, when you seek happiness for yourself, it will always elude you, if you seek happiness for others, you will find it for yourself.”
Manifesting compassion with wisdom in service of humanity is indeed the highest form of human fulfillment. Whatever we give, we get in return. We can bring light to help brighten the world. We bring light by being the light, the love, the kindness, the compassion, the generosity, and the joy. We can be the change.