Hi everyone, just a little background info of myself.
I enlisted this May and did well enough in BMT to get into OCS. However, since young I have had this sharp pain in my tailbone every time pressure is applied onto it and it only got worse during NS. On my first bookout from OCS, I went to A&E to get an x-ray done, and they referred me to for a specialist appointment. I postponed it because I had a field camp coming out and didn't want to miss it and risk being OOC-ed. However, due to unforeseen circumstances I OOC-ed in the end and went for the appointment, where my doctor gave me 4 months light duties and physiotherapy where he will then see me again to review. However, I got posted last week to 1SIR to be an Infantry Trooper (while on status).
My problem right now is not so much of physical but it is more of mental. Ever since I OOC-ed, I have not been able to sleep well or eat well. Every night I average perhaps two to three hours of sleep, leaving me tired the entire day. But every time I close my eyes, I cannot help but think of the what-ifs and disappointment I have caused my loved ones. After being posted here, this anxiety has intensified because I am terrified of what may happen to me if I do not get out of here. Even though I am on light duty, I have to participate in most of the activities, and that has made my tailbone condition worse. Most of the time I am in a daze and I feel empty and numb at best. Other times, when my mind gets too muddled and the feelings overwhelms me too much, I start to break down and cry. I really tried to talk to people about this but all they say is to take your mind off it but I really can't. Others have started to say I'm trying to malinger. I flit between the helplessness of my situation and the worthlessness of having been kicked out of OCS. I have started cutting myself again as an outlet to release my pain but I have a genuine fear that I may be compelled to do even worse things if I do not get help soon. I tried surfacing the problem to the MO but he just dismissed it. As a last resort I have called the SAF Counselling Hotline to book a session but they told me it might take up to a month to have my appointment.
I really cannot take it anymore and thus am trying to seek help from people here. I am paralysed by the fear of what may happen and I really need help soon. I do not dare speak to my PC and OC as events that happened in my army life has led me to distrust my commanders. I also don't dare seek an appointment with the MO to go to PCC because I have heard that the few people who have gone to my camp's MO have been sent to IMH and have yet to return. Anyone know how I may contact PCC (Psychological Care Centre) directly to make an appointment with a psychiatrist?
I really don't know how much more of this I can take anymore...
Somebody help me please.
Please refer to NS Adjustment Disorder:
NS two years only. You have a long way ahead of you. Make good use of NS time to think about what you want to do in the future after ORD. I'm sure your family will understand your physical pain, take time to explain to them.
I was in 1st CDO during my NS many years back. I trained a whole year with my mates and go through all the difficult times together. During a morning PT, i did sit up on the hard floor and when i sit up, i heard a loud crack. I lost energy and slammed to the ground. I could barely move. My mates help me to medical centre and MO say back strain. I was limping and in a lot of pain. It was training for ATEC period but i could not even get out of bed. Nobody understood my pain. On a weekend, i went to CGH A&E and doctor took X-ray and immediately told me got slipped disc, internal bleeding and disc space reduce+degenration due to heavy loads.
I went back to camp and people weren't happy. They start to say i keng. These were mates whom i trained with through CDO BMT, went Taiwan and did Airborne and all the long marches together. I was one alot of pain killers and was excused from training. But every morning parade was both mentally and physically painful. When officer asked who no well, i was always the one reporting sick. It took some time before i was officially downgraded.
I filed an injury report to document it was service injury. The officers did not want to sign the document because they did not follow safety procedure to do sit up on mats. I told my parents and they threatened to get MP help, officers heard and wanted to charge me. I was damn down because i did my best to serve the nation and in the course of it got injured. But people treated me like trash because i was injured.
I fully understand how u feel because i got transferred to the CDO HQ to be a clerk after that. I still saw my mates at the cook house and every evening when i book out, some are guarding the gates. They were envious. So they made rude comments about kenging and being weak etc.
How i overcame it was by concentrating on my future. I applied for scholarship and got it. I took my free time outside came to practice on photography and did what i liked. I read extensively when i had free time in camp. I made a few good friends who weren't judgemental. I still did my administrative duties to my best.
In the end i ORDed. 1 yr 10 mths went by quickly. I got outstanding for both conduct and performance. My CO and OC of the HQ wrote testimonial for me.
Take the negative and channel that energy to do your best.
If you feel that you need a psychiatrist asap,you can visit one outside(not sure how much but must be expensive).You could talk to friends and family about your feelings.It helped me get somethings off my mind a few times so it might help you.Also remember that despite all that happens,your friend and family will always be there for you
NS have counselling hotlines for you to call if need arises.
The counsellors are experienced professionals.
You can call them at the following counselling hotlines:
- SAF : 1800-278 0022 (SAF Counselling Hotline)
- SPF : 1800-255 1151 (Police Psychology Service Department)
- SCDF: 1800-286 6666 (SCDF Counselling Hotline)
If you think you have been treated unfairly, you can bring up the case to your Commander. We will listen to your case. Do remember to bring along all facts and supporting documents.
We will do our best to address your concerns. Servicemen are to seek redress through proper channels. Together, we can address your issue more expeditiously.
The SAF seeks to promote the well-being of every serviceman by providing
counselling support for those whom might be facing difficulties coping with their
personal or work/training related problems. Servicemen who are experiencing
difficulties can seek help through the avenues described below.
Commander interviews of all recruits are conducted within 48 hours of enlistment into full-time NS. Regular interviews are subsequently conducted on a monthly basis during the PTP/BMT phase. Special interviews are also granted upon request. Servicemen can highlight their difficulties during these interviews for assistance.
Orientation Officers identify, assist and counsel BMT recruits with adjustment
and/or other personal problems.
NS SAF Counselling Hotline is a 24-hour confidential telephone
counselling service provided by the SAF Counselling Centre. Manned by
trained counselling personnel, the SAF Counselling Hotline offers a crisis
and telephone counselling service to all servicemen. Callers may
choose to remain anonymous. Face to face counselling is also available
at the SAF Counselling Centre upon request/referral.
SAF Paracounselling Scheme complements other existing counselling
services and provides another avenue of help at the unit level for those who
need help to deal more effectively with their problems. Paracounsellors are
specially selected, trained by and work closely under the professional guidance
and support of counsellors from the SAF Counselling Centre. Paracounsellors
can be identified through their identification badges as well as through publicity
posters displayed in their units.
Being psychologically prepared is all about knowing what to expect and being prepared for it.
To be better prepared, you can participate in Total Defence activities and Open Houses organised by the SAF/SPF/SCDF.
Perhaps you should also talk to your family members and friends who have lived the NS experience. The more you discuss with others, the more comfortable and mentally prepared you’ll become.
Because NS life is different from civilian life before enlistment, there are many adjustments you need to make.
A good way to cope is to get support from your buddy and fellow recruits. They are going through the same tough training as you, so talking to one another will help relieve some tension.
In most evenings during your leisure time, you’ll also have some time to call your family or loved ones to talk. They can give you emotional support during NS.
You can have a one-on-one interview sessions with your officer to highlight any problems you may have. If you have a personal or family problem that need to be addressed, do let the officer know—he may be able to give you some advice or time off to settle your problems.
Life in NS revolves around structure, routine and discipline. This helps us stay united as a uniformed organisation as well as imparts the rigours necessary to protect our nation and citizens.
This does not mean there is just work and no play. In fact, after a few weeks in NS and you’ll find new friends and new reasons to smile!
As a soldier, one of the biggest adjustments you’ll have to make quickly is in regimentation and discipline.
Being in a uniformed organisation, you’ll have to obey orders from your superiors. Thus some of you may feel a sudden lack of freedom to do what you want and you may find yourself having difficulties accepting authority initially.
Regimentation and discipline build strong character and toughness, so that you’ll be tough enough to handle difficult combat, crime-fighting or rescue situations without giving up or breaking down.
When you first enlist into NS, you may have concerns of being in a new territory, with new faces and new things to do. But don’t let this get to you. Just remember the saying that “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going”.
Following are some tips on what you can do to prepare yourself psychologically:
- Adopt a positive perception
- Build up physical stamina
- Develop good working attitude and habits
- Overcome psychological stress
- Adopt teamwork spirit
- Learn to be independent
- Set realistic expectations
You can also speak to your friends or family members who have been through NS. Ask them to share their stories. The sharing will help you reduce some of your fears, uncertainties and doubts.
During NS you’ll be living with different people.
Because these people come from different backgrounds, they may not think like you do or react to situations like you would. Instead of trying to select your type of people, you should cherish the diversity. This is a chance for you to learn more about your fellow mates and their cultures.
You’ll find that you have many opportunities to absorb the different cultures—during training, eating, chatting or just seeing and listening. Take these opportunities and learn from people around you, you’ll have a much better appreciation of Singapore’s cultural diversity.
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): 1800-2214444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-2837019
Sage Counselling Centre: 1800-5555555
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling: 1800-3535800
The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) is a 2,000-bed acute tertiary psychiatric hospital situated on a 25-hectare campus at Buangkok Green Medical Park. Set amidst serene surroundings, IMH offers a comprehensive range of psychiatric, rehabilitative and counselling services for children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly.
IMH’s tradition of care started in 1928. We were the first mental hospital in Singapore, starting with some 1,000 patients. Since then, many advances have been made in treatment, training, and research. Our treatment integrates evidence-based therapies, supported by the departments of clinical psychology, nursing, occupational therapy, and medical social work, to provide holistic care for our patients. IMH is equipped with modern facilities, with 50 wards for inpatients and seven Specialist Outpatient Clinics.
IMH was the first mental health institution in Asia to receive the Joint Commission International Accreditation in 2005, a highly coveted international accreditation for healthcare organisations.
Over the years, IMH has gained a reputation for quality research. In 2008, the Ministry of Health, Singapore, entrusted IMH with a S$25 million research grant to implement translational and clinical research into the causes of schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders.
IMH also plays a key role in training the next generation of mental health professionals in Singapore. We train psychiatrists and mental health professionals through the NHG-AHPL Residency Programme for psychiatry and through collaborations with the local tertiary institutions.
Buangkok Green Medical Park
10 Buangkok View
If you are facing a mental health crisis, please call our Crisis Helpline at 6389 2222 or seek medical help at our 24-hour Emergency Services located in our hospital.
Helping servicemen serve
Story by Benita Teo
Serving in the military is certainly no mean feat. And when the security of the nation is in one’s hands, mental strength is as important as, if not more so than, physical fitness.
When the going gets tough, it is often helpful to talk it out with a trusted family or friend. But, even with the best of intentions, not everyone is able to fully comprehend the intricacies of military life.
To help the servicemen and women of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) cope with the challenges of their military roles, the counsellors of the SAF Counselling Centre (SCC) are always ready to lend a listening ear. In fact, the team at SCC provides professional counselling services not only to all members of the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and SAF, but also to their families.
Learning to live the military life
Unlike civilian counselling centres, the SCC comes under military mandate, and its primary purpose is to provide mental health care to ensure that servicemen are able to carry out their duties efficiently.
Of the types of cases the SCC sees, Mrs Marlene Koh, Head of Education and Prevention Services, noted that the majority were Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) with adaptation issues. "Not everybody is used to dealing with authority. They all came in as students who only had to take care of their own studies."
She added: "The second, smaller group would be Regulars with career or family issues. A third group comprises families and soldiers affected by critical incidents that happened around them, for instance training incidents or a death in the family."
Servicemen in distress may seek help directly with the SCC through two channels: face-to-face sessions or the 24-hour SAF Counselling Hotline. On top of these, a Family Support Helpline is also available for the family members of soldiers deployed overseas who are in need of assistance.
Eyes and ears on the ground
To help junior and senior commanders to identify and assist men under their charge who are at risk of emotional distress, the SCC conducts regular workshops. In addition to basic counselling skills, stress management and suicide prevention are also taught at the workshops.
Ms Cheryl Chia, an SCC counsellor with 14 years of experience, explained that equipping commanders with these skills is essential because "they are the eyes and ears on the ground".
Another set of eyes that the SCC relies on to spot at-risk servicemen are the paracounsellors - Regulars who volunteer to help look after the mental welfare of servicemen at the unit level. To be appointed as paracounsellors, they have to go through a five-day course organised by the SCC that teaches basic counselling, suicide prevention and crisis management skills.
Military Expert (ME) 3-3 Sulinder Singh, a Logistics Warrant Officer, has been a paracounsellor in his unit, 201 Squadron (SQN), since 2010. And being a familiar face in the unit means that servicemen know what to expect when they confide in him - trustworthiness.
"I'm quite approachable, and they know that if they talk to me, it will be confidential."
Besides assuaging doubts over client confidentiality, the counsellors and paracounsellors also dispelled the stigma of seeking help.
"(For) those who are in a position of command, it may be a 'face' issue," said SCC counsellor Lawrence Yap. "But so far, I've not encountered any clients (Regulars) who claimed that attending counselling affected their careers."
ME3-3 Singh echoed his sentiments: "Is there a stigma attached to people in the unit who see paracounsellors? No, not at all. They are not mentally ill, we just need to help them find the right way to organise their thoughts."
The counsellor is in
Help for a distressed soldier often begins with a visit to the Medical Officer (MO) with complaints of symptoms of stress. Said Ms Chia: "Usually they will say that they are unable to sleep or eat. When the MOs probe deeper and realise that the problem goes beyond a medical issue, they will refer them to us."
At the SCC, the soldier will be assigned a counsellor. Through the sessions, counsellor and soldier will work together to identify the problems and set goals towards overcoming them. The counsellor will also impart skills such as stress or anger management techniques.
When facing mental turmoil, a soldier may despair and lose his sense of self. One approach a counsellor may take is to remind him of his capabilities.
"Counselling is about instilling a sense of hope," said Mr Yap, who specialises in substance and drug addiction counselling. "Everyone has it in them to overcome a difficult situation. We just need to help them see that they are not as helpless as they think they are, and that the situation is not as hopeless as they think it is."
SCC counsellors also work with psychiatrists and psychologists from the Psychological Care Centre (PCC) at the SAF Medical Corps' Military Medicine Institute to provide all-round care to the soldier. PCC psychiatrists prescribe medication for conditions like depression while psychologists run tests to ascertain if a behavioural problem is linked to a learning or intellectual disability.
Helping others help themselves
With the ever-evolving social landscape, counsellors must stay up-to-date on new behavioural problems or addictions, such as social media addiction.
Mrs Koh also pointed out that there are now more cases of servicemen suffering anxieties about not performing well or meeting expectations, and that many expected others to solve their problems.
Mr Yap agreed: "To change, clients have to take personal responsibility for their actions."
Nonetheless, the counsellors take comfort in the knowledge that they are changing lives for the better.
Mrs Koh remembered a recruit who had attempted suicide after his girlfriend of four years ended their relationship and started seeing a friend of his behind his back. Mrs Koh helped him acknowledge his feelings of hurt and disappointment, and taught him constructive ways of managing his anger.
The recruit started to improve his relationship with his family and make new friends in his unit. Nine months later, he was finally able to move on from the break-up.
Ms Chia also recounted a recent case: "I had a client who wanted to kill himself. But after working with his unit and the psychiatrist, just before his ORD (Operationally Ready Date) he said, 'You gave me hope. Even though life ahead will be challenging, at least I know now that there are people who care, and that there is more to life than thinking about hurting myself.'"
She added: "He even baked us cupcakes as a 'thank you'. It's the little things like these (that let me know I’ve made a difference)."
If you are in need of help, or know someone who needs help, please call the following 24-hour hotline:
SAF Counselling Hotline
1800 278 0022
Families of service personnel deployed overseas who are in need of help can call the following 24-hour hotline:
Family Support Helpline
1800 278 0023
If you are interested in volunteering to be a paracounsellor, call the following number for more information:
SINGAPORE - When patients feel at their most vulnerable, Head of medical social services at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Ms Esther Lim steps in to help them make sense of what is happening.
Such patients may have tried to take their own lives or showed signs of wanting to do so. Ms Lim also helps families cope when they have lost a loved one.
The 39-year-old's helping hand is extended not just to patients, but also to hospital staff who face challenges at home or at work, for instance, if they have been abused by a patient.
In 2003, she pioneered a programme in SGH to train health-care and social work professionals in suicide intervention. It is now also offered in SingHealth's Postgraduate Allied Health Training Institute.
Since becoming a social worker in 1995, Ms Lim, who leads a team of 85 medical social workers, has received more than 15 awards. Last year, she was one of two recipients of the Outstanding Social Worker Awards given out by the Singapore Association of Social Workers.
She is married to a 37-year-old police officer. They have a six-year-old daughter.
I specialise in suicide and crisis intervention because...
When I was working in the emergency department years ago, I saw how a crisis, such as a life-threatening illness, a serious road traffic accident or an attempted suicide, can throw a family off balance.
The sense of disbelief and loss can be overwhelming, so this is where I step in to help people make sense of what is happening.
The immediate goal is to reduce the intensity of the emotional, physical and behavioural reactions, while the long-term goal is to help families get back to as normal a life as can be.
A person's life is precious because...
We live only once, so we have to live it fully and with dignity, despite our circumstances.
One little known fact about suicidal patients is...
They are not mentally ill. Anyone facing a seemingly desperate situation can be vulnerable to feeling hopeless and helpless, which may escalate to suicidal acts if the person does not receive help or cuts himself off from others.
If I were to give an analogy for what I do, I would...
Be a bridge to connect the suicidal person with the resources around him, such as family service centres, care facilities and legal aid. Often, a person may think nobody can help him, which is not true.
The eventual goal is to reconnect the suicidal person with his family and loved ones through individual, couple or family sessions.
A typical day for me would...
Start at 8.30am with administrative duties, followed by morning staff meetings or journal club sessions. I meet senior staff members regularly to plan and implement assistance schemes which benefit patients.
Other medical social workers also come to me to seek advice on cases they are working on. I co-manage the difficult cases, such as those which may involve suicide, or in which patients or family members consistently display behavioural difficulties.
I also support hospital staff members who need help and teach them coping strategies.
I have come across all types of cases...
But I find that families with strong social support fare better in crises. After the initial shock and confusion, members organise themselves very quickly to protect the affected family member by providing physiological and emotional comfort.
I love patients who...
Make it a point to turn up for their follow-up counselling sessions because this shows their readiness and motivation for change.
Patients who are forthcoming, open to working with their families and willing to reflect on themselves often make better progress.
They pick up positive coping strategies to deal with life's challenges, which range from relationship discord, financial issues to mental health or addiction challenges.
Patients who get my goat are...
Those who blame everyone else for their problems, without realising that they have a part to play.
For instance, a suicidal husband may be domineering at home and may keep blaming his wife and children, without realising that he has failed to communicate properly with them.
This can also explain the persistent suicidal behaviour in some patients. This vicious circle may wear out their loved ones and cut patients off from the support they used to have.
Things that put a smile on my face are...
Receiving handmade cards from the children of one patient whom I saw for attempted suicide and depression over several years.
Every year, though the drawings and handwriting would mature, they always conveyed their appreciation to me for being there for their mother.
It breaks my heart when...
An elderly patient asks me if the doctor can help end his life because he does not want to burden his children.
I realise, through interaction with elderly patients, that they are so stoic and self-reliant that they feel useless when they cannot contribute financially, take care of their grandchildren or, worse still, become disabled.
They have laboured hard all their lives, yet they have not come to accept that there is a time to receive unconditional care in return.
I would not trade places for the world because...
There is still so much to be done that I cannot find enough time for everything. This is what I am trained for and playing a part to restore equilibrium to lives is a constant reminder to live mine fully.
My best tip is...
To learn to take charge of emotions, thus reducing the likelihood of acting on impulse when emotionally charged.
Some things which may help include taking slow, deep breaths, sharing your problems with a trusted mentor and putting vexing matters on the back-burner, that is, taking your mind off it and revisiting the issue when you are calmer.Get a copy of Mind Your Body, The Straits Times or go tofor more stories.