This World Mental Health Day (Oct 10), AsiaOne speaks to a suicide survivor who wants to raise mental health awareness in Singapore.
A montage of two best friends having the time of their lives would put a smile on many people’s faces, but one such TikTok video took a much more poignant note.
It was a tribute to a dear friend who took her own life.
On Sept 19, Yvette Tan, 25, posted a TikTok video in remembrance of her best friend Sim Hui Lin, on the latter’s second death anniversary.
In the clip, the young women were seen breaking out K-pop dance moves, going on holiday trips in South Korea, and enjoying themselves as they hung out and celebrated different occasions.
“She was extroverted, bubbly, and had the highest energy in the room,” Tan, an optometrist, told AsiaOne in an interview on Thursday (Oct 7).
But behind Sim’s bright smiles laid turmoil. She battled mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia for about eight years, Tan said.
Although Sim received psychiatric treatment and had the support of family and friends, she told Tan — whom she met while studying optometry in Ngee Ann Polytechnic — that she only wanted to live until she was 20.
“I tried to be a good friend to her, to be there for her when she needed me,” Tan said.
However, Sim texted her brother “I love you, goodbye” before jumping off a building one night. She died on Sept 13, 2019 — a month before her 23rd birthday.
Don’t leave it until it’s too late
Her suicide left Tan in shock and disbelief.
“There was no warning sign at all,” she said, “Everything seemed so normal the night before, she even asked me out to eat army stew.”
Tan couldn’t make it for dinner that night and that was the very last time she heard from her bestie.
“I blamed myself a lot for it. The guilt of not being able to do more for her is heavy,” she told AsiaOne.
Two years after her best friend’s death, Tan is still healing from the pain and learning to cope with the loss.
“When someone dies of old age, you accept it because you know that their time is up. But when you lose your someone to suicide, you’ll never find closure,” she shared.
According to Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), suicide is the leading cause of death among those aged between 10 and 29. For every case, there are at least six suicide survivors who are left behind.
The loss of her friend left a deep impact on Tan, who learnt to be more empathetic towards others and became more vocal on mental health issues.
Since 2019, she has been making videos in memory of her best friend, as well as sharing her experience on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok to raise awareness on depression and suicide in Singapore.
Tan said she wants to give comfort to those struggling with mental health conditions, so “no one else will have to go through my pain of losing someone through suicide”.
“Normalise talking about mental health, don’t leave it until it’s too late,” she urged in her videos.
A listening ear for #mentalhealthmatters
Mental health is a topic not widely discussed in Singapore, she said, because society does not understand it and the stigma is too strong.
Just because you can’t see it [depression], doesn’t mean it does not exist, Tan said in her TikTok video, which has garnered over 2.2 million views since Sept 19.
“People with depression are not weak, they are sick and require medical attention.”
Besides advocating for mental health awareness on social media, Tan wants to provide those who are going through tough times a safe space to voice their thoughts as well as helping to build a supportive community around them.
When asked about the thousands of comments on her recent TikTok videos, she said she tries her best to reply to every single comment.
However, Tan is unable to respond to some comments in time, adding: “It’s heartwarming to see others leaving sweet messages to cheer each other on”.
She has also offered a listening ear to anyone who needs help via Instagram DMs.
Tan told AsiaOne that she has received over 20 messages from people aged 13 to early 20s, saying: “They are suffering and have no one to turn to because their loved ones are not understanding of their plight.
“They just want someone to listen without judgement.”
Oftentimes, those in distress do not want to end their lives, according to SOS. They just want to get out of the overwhelming or painful situation they are in.
And that’s where their family and friends can help — by listening to understand their struggle and encouraging them to seek help from mental health or counselling professionals.
Tan also wants to let those struggling with mental health issues know that they are not alone, saying: “They should never let the stigma around mental health prevent them from seeking professional help.”
She also urged others not to disregard the feelings of those who are suffering and to support them with love and compassion.
“Someone in your life needs to hear that they matter, that they are loved, that they have a future.
“Be the one to tell them that.”
- Samaritans of Singapore: 1-767
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
- Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
- Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
- Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
- Shan You Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 6741-0078
- Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service: www.eC2.sg
- Tinkle Friend (for primary school children): 1800-2744-788