Mental Wellness Game Plan: Road to Resilience

Youth mental wellness has been a recent talking point in Singapore. More than two young Singaporeans aged 10-19 commit suicide every month, and this figure has increased from previous years. To target this concern, Singapore Association of Mental Health (SAMH) has initiated preventive programmes using arts and sports to engage youths at-risk of developing mental health issues. Our capstone team was privileged to partner with SAMH in developing the sports programme. Through research, we found that there were many benefits of sports on mental health, including countering chemical imbalances in the body, strengthening one’s social support network and increasing one’s self-esteem. We sought to glean these benefits for youth by incorporating our research into an Intentionally Designed Sports Programme (IDSP). For instance, if research showed that end-of-session debriefs helped sports participants retain more information about the new skills and values learnt, then we would incorporate such debriefs into our IDSP. Intentional design would help us achieve our goals of improving the mental resilience of youth through sports, rather than just participating in sports for its sake. We piloted our IDSP through four sessions of floorball with a pool of six secondary school youths, alongside seven rapport building sessions at the youths’ school. Through pre- and post- surveys, qualitative observations and post- interview with SAMH staff, we concluded that IDSP was effective in increasing mental wellness outcomes for the participants through our pilot run. We then sought to make the benefits of IDSP more readily to other youths in Singapore, and thus developed an IDSP toolkit. This IDSP toolkit serves as a best practice guide for other student groups or practitioners seeking to use sports to improve youth mental wellness, and was given to SAMH at the conclusion of our capstone project.

Reflections from Capstone team members

“Overall, the programme showed me that resilience – an important factor in optimal mental health and in coping with mental illness – can be built. This can be done if youths are aware of themselves and their behaviour, are able to identify with their current problems, are educated, and make an effort to put what they have learned into practice. Our capstone hence sought to educate our participants, and help them to identify persistent unhealthy cognitions or behaviours that can be changed by using sports as a tool and helping them to externalise these experiences through debriefing. The experience has taught me invaluable lessons that will indefinitely be useful to me in many areas of my life, in school or at work in the future. I have learnt not only from the research, planning and conduct of the programme but from our partners, my teammates, our mentor and from the participants alike. This experience of mutual learning has been extremely meaningful and will leave an indelible mark on me.”

– Davin Fong, Year 2, Psychology