Getting Into The Mind: Life Skills and Mental Health Workshop

On Tuesday, 22 June 2021, YOUTHIVA, in collaboration with the Veritas Psychology Club launched their first session of the Life Skills & Mental Health Education Workshop! Running from 6.00p.m. to 7.30p.m., the inaugural session focused on Mental Health and related topics, and was organised as part of an MPU subject exercise together with the rotary club. The online session, and subsequent sessions, were to serve as trial runs for future educators of the programme and to prepare them for conducting mental health classes in secondary schools in the future.

The talk opened with BAC Education & MIRM’s own MR. Brian Lariche giving a short explanation on the topic of mental health; specifically what mental health is and how it is often (and unfortunately) stigmatised in Malaysia. Mr. Brian likened disrupted mental health as being on par with disrupted physical health, however, owing to stigma surrounding mental health, people often hesitated in getting an official diagnosis and seeking treatment, which he added, should NOT be the case.

The Team behind the Talk: (Top Row:) Hamdi Abdirahman Mohamed, Mr. Brian John Lariche, Prashansa Camilla Perera, (Bottom Row) Hamdi Abdikader Ahmed, Ms. Iqra Zahid. Miss Hamdi Abdikader was also the moderator for the event.

Mr. Brian explained that there are 2 kinds of mental health issues, medical and psychological, the first of which could be managed via medical treatment, and the second of which required the guidance of a psychologist in managing. On the topic of psychology, Mr. Brian highlighted just how unfathomable the human brain truly was, and that there was no one true solution to resolving its mysteries; “Just as one theorem is created, someone comes up with another one.” He went on to explain that it was important to be aware of our mental state, as it impacted how we act, similar to how our behaviour changes according to people we meet, adding in the importance of knowing when to step back and give our brain the chance to “reboot” or to wind down and reassess a situation.

Moving on from this, patterns in mental health disorders, and how the brain worked subconsciously in dealing with memories were discussed. Another aspect covered was the early warning signs that one’s mental health was not as it should be- and what steps could be taken to effectively manage such a situation. These tips included having a daily routine; which provides a sense of comfort and familiarity, as well as finding something to seek solace in; be it one’s family, friendships, or even religion. Mr. Brian also recommended occasionally stepping-away, or “detox-ing” from one’s phone- difficult, he admitted, given how much of our life now appears to revolve around it (from work, to social networks to leisure devices)- but ultimately a much needed break from something that connects you to both “…the best of the best and the worst of the worst”. Aromatherapy was also touted as a useful method of soothing the mind, with several scents such as eucalyptus and lavender being recommended. A break was held at the half hour mark and participants were asked to fill up a poll on how long they tended to spend on their phones (a majority of the participants were revealed to spend up to 5-10 hours on their phone.)

Mr. Brian on why taking a break from the phone was necessary.

The next speaker, Miss Iqra, focused on further methods of coping with mental health issues. Among the methods recommended were; journaling, for its effectiveness in expressing feelings, be it positive or negative emotions. The habit of listing down our feelings on a daily basis, she added, made it easier to identify triggers and stressors- giving us an avenue to find ways of coping and art therapy, where instead of using words, art was a medium of expressing emotions. Miss Iqra also recommended exercise and highlighted the importance of physical health in relation to mental health. Listing examples of core workouts that were safe to do at home, Ms. Iqra emphasised the benefit of exercise for mental health as the break in routine would help refresh our minds. Some recommended forms of exercise include cardio, strength training and stretching.

Ms. Iqra on the benefits of Journaling

On the topic of refreshing one’s mind, Miss Iqra also had several other methods which could be used to help, including music, with many participants agreeing that certain songs they enjoyed had a soothing/ uplifting effect on their moods, and indulging in some good food. While she stressed on the importance of eating healthy meals, she also agreed that occasionally indulging in a comfort meal, and even the process of preparing a good meal helps destress the mind. Ms. Iqra also advocated for the method of reframing one’s thoughts: while negative thoughts are unavoidable, a good way to overcome them was by “reframing” them or considering them from another perspective, for example, Ms. Iqra shared her tactic of watching motivational videos when she felt demotivated. Hobbies or leisure activities also serve as a good way to refresh the mind, serving as a break from routine, and even half an hour on them can provide us with some much needed “me time”, effectively refreshing us mentally. Getting adequate rest was also a major point- referring to Mr. Brian’s earlier comments about getting adequate rest, Ms. Iqra re-emphasised this, highlighting just how major sleep’s role was in our mental health, and also referenced the importance of appreciating the small blessings, rather than considering one’s lack of (the gratitude technique), and provided some holistic breathing techniques for grounding one’s self.

Kahoot Session for the Group!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper workshop without some fun games! Following Ms. Iqra’s talk, a session of Kahoot was organised for the participants to test how much they remembered of their newly-acquired mental health knowledge, with most of the participants acquitting themselves well. The Workshop participants were also requested to fill up a feedback form so that the host would know what elements of the event worked well, and which needed improvement. Wrapping up with a group photo and a Q&A session, a list of contacts for mental health professionals were also provided at the end of the workshop for those who needed to reach out (or knew of anyone who needed to reach out) to them.

List of contacts and organisations dealing with mental health to reach out to for those in need.

All in all, a lively and interesting session was the best way to sum up the Psychology Club’s inaugural session with Youthiva. Kudos and well done to them, and we look forward to the next session!

(Psst! Interested but missed out on the talk due to a conflicting schedule? No biggie- check it out here! And keep your eyes peeled for the next talk!)