As she breathed her last, Mandy’s mother told her, “Don’t cry for me.” So Mandy did just that. Growing up, Mandy was taught that “It’s a weakness to show emotions; we should thank God in every circumstance.” As she battled to suppress her grief, Mandy was also bullied as a lowly intern at a law firm. Things took a toll on her.
That was when she got to know about ThriveSg, Cru Singapore’s counselling arm. With the support of a listening ear and objective guidance from her counsellor, Mandy was finally able to grieve and move forward in spiritual, mental and emotional health.
Since its inception in October 2020 to Dec 2021, ThriveSg has served 65 clients (known as “Thrivers” - someone who is proactive and courageous in seeking support) like Mandy. A small core team of two full-time staff and two volunteers serve alongside a bigger team of some 17 volunteer counsellors. The “Sg” in ThriveSg is shorthand for the team’s belief that one has to grow emotionally in order to thrive significantly. ThriveSg serves clients aged 17-25 years old of all faiths, without charging any fees. Common issues seen by the team include anxiety, depression, challenges with family relationships, and past trauma.
“With COVID-19, mental health issues were made more apparent and exacerbated,” lead counsellor Pamela Koh shares. The increased awareness brought about an uptick in demand for counselling services. “Cru staff referred their students to us. Many also read about us on Christian website, Salt & Light when one of the writers offered to write about us,” recalls Pamela, who is armed with a master’s degree in counselling from the Singapore Bible College.
One unique feature of ThriveSg’s services is the removal of fees as well as a cap on the number of sessions for clients. “As long as the Thriver is willing to journey with us, we will do so alongside them,” Pamela shares. This is important because some issues cannot be solved within just a few sessions, nor does the team want to see youths hindered from seeking help due to cost.
If anything, Pamela hopes to de-stigmatise counselling services. Some view counselling with suspicion and insist that Christians should just seek God, pray and read the Bible. ThriveSg adopts a balanced approach. “Counselling is a form of self-care,” Pamela shares. “We are all work-in-progress. We are all humans. Counselling helps us to grow, and God can work through that platform.”
We often assume that one has to experience intense, long-term trauma before seeking counselling. This cannot be further from the truth. “The ‘little’ things can affect a person deeply, even if it was, for example, a single incident where you were criticised,” Pamela says. Swept under the carpet, these issues can fester into deeper emotional issues and impede our growth as emotionally and spiritually healthy adults.
More recently, ThriveSg is actively reaching out via its Instagram (@thrivesg.tribe). Posts and stories are crafted to educate on mental health from an Asian perspective and to cultivate a support-seeking culture. Through Instagram, the team saw more young people reaching out for help.
As professional counsellors, the team serves clients of all faiths and abides by the ethical standards required of registered counsellors. If Thrivers bring up theological issues, the counsellors will engage respectfully. “As our Thrivers experience healing over time, they will remember the good testimony of God,” Pamela says. “We hope that they will recover their identity and discover their purpose, so they can thrive significantly. This applies to both believers and non-believers.”
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