Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to support a mentally ill person, a homeless person, an abused person, a [fill in the blanks for vulnerable person]. Having previously come from the government-sanctioned social services sector myself, I will just state the obvious – the social services are maxed out, burnt out.
While there can be a myriad of reasons why the burnt-out state persists, I thought I would just discuss one prevailing mindset of the Singapore society I have observed – the tendency to rely on the government and formal institutions to solve humanity’s problems. I call it the “subbing out” culture.
Don’t get me wrong. While I strongly believe in “charity begins at home”, I think there is a place for every single person to consider participating in managing society’s problems, starting with the people closest to you. I have heard so often from caregivers of persons with mental health conditions, expressing so much gratitude when they have a community of people who are rallying behind them.
This tribe of people play different roles – some come over to the house to relieve the caregiver of accompanying the troubled family member, so the caregiver can have a few hours of respite; some help to babysit the caregiver’s young children for a few hours, so that the caregiver can attend fully to the troubled person; some help to buy groceries for the caregiver; some help to clean the house for the caregiver; some, who are more knowledgeable and experienced in helping issues, provide consultation and point to the right resources. And so on.
It all begins with the mindset of “tribe”. If you are willing to help but do not have the right skills, you can get yourself equipped with knowledge and skills by seeking the right consultation. Here at Chryseos Health, we have had the opportunity to provide advice for friends who want to be equipped to help. At the same time, we have been impressed by the willingness of some of these tribe members. Even when they don’t have the right skills, they give the time and initiative.
Just some weeks back, we had a friend who reached out to us because she needed a place to stay for some respite from an abusive spouse. We had friends who had a temporary space to offer her, and she had the help she needed. Just like that, one connection leads to another and another. It is my hope that “tribe” mentality can spread like wildfire across our country, so that we can truly activate the redemptive force of the village.