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Impact 0278: Raising awareness for gender and cultural nuances in mental health

Alvonah Loh · 27 November 2021
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Alvona Loh, 28, is a young medical doctor. With the help of two friends, she created WEquality, a mental health campaign now supported by the US Mission to ASEAN. Through the campaign, she hopes to raise awareness of gender-specific mental health issues, such as toxic masculinity for men and pressures to look good for women. Today, she shares more about the work that she does.

Question: Tell us more about what you do for volunteering!

I co-founded a mental health campaign, WEquality, which aims to discuss gender and cultural nuances in mental health issues. Along with two teammates who have a background in public health, we started by applying the skills on advocacy learnt from a women’s leadership academy that was funded by the US Mission to ASEAN. Subsequently, we founded the campaign with seed funding from the academy to highlight cultural and gender nuances related to mental health.

Part of the campaign involves working with an influencer who acts as our campaign ambassador to interview people and their loved ones –  both men and women alike, who have mental health struggles – such as eating disorders and depression.

Question: Why are you passionate about helping people who struggle with mental health?

In the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health issues have taken the spotlight in view of unemployment, restrictions and social isolation. As women in an Asian society, we hope to kick start discussions on issues that we observe in Singapore, such as the perils of stigma and suffering in silence. We hope this initiative encourages others to build a similar platform in other parts of Southeast Asia.

Question: What has been your biggest struggle in volunteering thus far?

I believe that mental health remains stigmatised to some extent in our society despite many efforts to openly talk about it. As part of the campaign, we tried inviting people with mental health issues to join a video-recorded interview but faced multiple cancellations as there were either concerns from the interviewees’ families or other personal issues that the interviewee faced. 

One day, I hope that the true advocates for mental health are those who have recovered from their various inner struggles, and become role models for those who are in similar situations.

Question: Is WEquality something you’ll continue doing in the future?

My teammates and I are still working on taking this campaign off the ground. For instance, we are currently reaching out to various student groups and forums, such as sharing about this campaign in the recent virtual Youth SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Summit 2021. 

In the future, we hope to empower younger minds to expand on this project and replicate it in other regions of Southeast Asia so that it can remain true and relevant to its respective context and gain greater outreach.

Question: What is one piece of advice you would share with fellow youths?

Helen Keller once said that life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. For us young people, there is much room to dream and room to fail, and a lesson can be gained from every journey. Personally, I have learnt so much from this experience, and I encourage everyone to try something new and give back to their community.

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