Issues with Horoscopes and Some Personality tests

Which horoscope are you?  Would you read the predictions for your horoscope for the upcoming week, month, or year?
Do you believe it?
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When I was in my teens, I used to love reading my weekly and annual horoscopes to find out my upcoming fortunes or mishaps in the near future.  Some similar phrases include those in the below paragraph: 
You have a great need for other people to like and admire you.  You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.  You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage.  While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them.  Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside.  At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.  You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations.  You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof.  You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others.  At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.  Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic.  Security is one of your major goals in life.
If you find most of the paragraph congruent with your life, you may be vulnerable to the Barnum / Forer effect.  According to Wikipedia, this effect is "common psychological phenomenon whereby individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically to them but that are, in fact, vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people."  The above paragraph is also based from the same link as the definition.

These statements about your fortune or personalities tend to be very generalised, but yet at the same time very convincing.  Along with the cognitive bias of confirmation bias (tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions), there is a high chance that the information will be perceived in a personalised manner by the reader.
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To reduce these effects of these cognitive biases, you have to ask yourselves these questions:
  • How was the measurements done?  Are the source of the test or measurement a reliable one?
  • Are the measurements valid (measuring what they are supposed to measure) and/or have been tested to be valid?
  • Are the measurements reliable (producing consistent results over a period of time) and/or have been tested to be reliable?
  • Are the results reliable? Can we trust the results?
  • Are the results specific enough, such that they can be perceived/read in an accurate manner? 

My training in psychology, and especially in research, has cultivated me to critically question things and check out the "facts" if they are accurate and valid.  This has sometimes resulted in me questioning my own perceptions and reflecting on my own knowledge.  However, in the purpose of seeking knowledge, it is a must to be done.  Unfortunately our society are still very susceptible to these very common cognitive biases, resulting in these unreliable yet very marketable (easy to understand and sell to the general public) tests to flourish in the market.

To conclude, I no longer read my horoscopes, but sometimes have to do these assessments in my organisation.  As I do them, I will research on their validity and reliability so as to have a better understanding of whether they will be useful to me.  If they are not, I will take the results with a "huge pinch of salt".
The next post this month will cover what students should note to be a valid and reliable measurement/test, and the different types of validity and reliability measurements.

Jon: Organizations in the Mental Health Scene in Singapore

To end our series on the mental health scene in Singapore, we will be briefly introducing the major agencies and Voluntary Welfare Organizations (VWOs) who are heavily involved in the advocacy, education, and treatment for mental health related issues.  The main purpose of this post is to compile and summarise information about these various organizations.  All information and pictures here are taken from their respective web pages, so to find out more we recommend that you explore their respective websites.  All the organizations below provide volunteering opportunities if you wish to be more active and make a difference in the lives of the mentally ill!
*Images displayed below are obtained from their respective (or related) websites.

Institute of Mental Health (IMH):
The IMH is the first and only mental health hospital in Singapore, catering to a wide range of consumers, ranging from young children to more elderly populations.  They also serve as a training institute for the next generation of mental health professionals.  Additionally, beside their inpatient and outpatient clinics, IMH is heavily involved in various community mental health services.  One of these services is the Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT) which is a national youth mental health program that aims to raise mental health awareness and provide them with a platform to seek mental health related support.  Some other programs that IMH runs that you may be interested to learn about are listed below:
  • Response, Early intervention and Assessment in Community mental Health (REACH)
  • Community Mental Health Team (CMHT)
  • Aged Psychiatry Community Assessment Treatment Services (APCATS)
  • Mental Health General Practitioner Partnerships Program
  • OcTAVE Day Rehabilitation Centres 

Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH):
The SAMH was the first community mental health agency to be started in Singapore, and aims to provide quality community and rehabilitative services to persons with mental health issues.  Their mission is to improve the lives of persons with mental illness and provide support for their families, promote acceptance and respect for persons with mental illness, and to improve mental resilience in the community.  Some of the services they provide are counselling (either by helpline or appointments), mobile mental health outreach team, community mental health education, and support services (caregiver support, peer support, support for eating disorders).

Silver Ribbon Singapore (SRS):
Silver Ribbon (Singapore) is a well-established VWO in Singapore’s mental health scene.  They were founded in 2006 and have since made it their mission to combat mental health stigma, encourage early treatment, and to facilitate the integration of people with mental illness within the society through innovative means of promoting mental health literacy.  Some of the services that are provided by SRS are mental health awareness workshops, complimentary counselling services, job placements for consumers of mental health issues, and various mental health outreach events.

Club HEAL:
The HEAL in Club HEAL stands for Hope, Empowerment, Acceptance, and Love, and they aim to assist and empower persons with mental illness to regain confidence in themselves and others in their journey towards community reintegration.  In addition to this aim, their mission also includes assisting the elderly regain confidence and a sense of independence through learning appropriate adaptive skills.  They provide services such as day psychiatric rehabilitation services, support groups, home-based community support, public talks to raise awareness, and provide links for greater outreach to those who need it.

Clarity Singapore:
Clarity Singapore is a mental health charity endorsed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, and aims to provide care right in the heartlands through counselling services and workshops.  They also work closely with other community partners to help establish an integrated support network for mental health in Singapore.  Their mission is serve persons with mental health issues to live meaningful lives through support, therapy, acceptance, and recovery.  Their services include individual/group therapy sessions, mental wellness activities, public talks, and customized psycho-education training talks.

Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS):
SACS is part of the community service arm of the Diocese of Singapore, and the serve the community through the provision of psychiatric services, senior services, and services for special groups.  Their mission is to provide refuge and relief for the psychiatrically-disabled and people in crisis, and aims to be an excellent Christian welfare organization, effectively accomplishing rehabilitation of those under their care.  The services they provide are counselling, short term residential care, day rehabilitation services, and a wide range of employment services that helps persons with mental health issues in job related issues.

Agency for Integrated Care (AIC):
AIC’s main purpose is to facilitate the transition of patients from hospitals back into the community.  They do so by working with various community care partners and support them through service development and manpower capability building.  One of their programs for mental health is known as the Community Resources and Support Engagement Team, and they provide  a basic community safety network for people with dementia and depression.  Part of this program is also support given to caregivers to help them care better for their loved ones.  The main difference from the other agencies is that AIC serves more as a platform to link various organizations together to provide the best level of care. Other AIC programs are listed below:
  • COMmunity Interventions Teams (COMIT)
  • Assessment and Shared Care Team (ASCAT)
  • Dementia Home Intervention Program
  • Eldersit Services
  • Dementia-Friendly Communities (DFC)
  • Mental Health General Practitioner Partnership
  • Local Community Support Network

We have finally come to the end of our series on mental health in Singapore. It definitely will not be the last we have!  We hope you enjoy this post as there is so much more to cover and we hope to properly represent any of these organizations and the awesome work they do, without risking putting all of you to sleep due to this lengthy post.
Thank you, kind readers, for the support throughout these two months and we do hope that this series has raised more awareness and also encourages more of you to play a more active role in the mental health community!

Jon: Silver Ribbon Singapore Youth Chapter

To follow up from our previous post on the mental health scene in Singapore, we will be introducing a new youth initiative by the Silver Ribbon Singapore organization.  Silver Ribbon (Singapore) is a well-established Voluntary Welfare Organization in Singapore’s mental health scene.  They were founded in 2006 and have since made it their mission to combat mental health stigma, encourage early treatment, and to facilitate the integration of people with mental illness within the society through innovative means of promoting mental health literacy.  The Silver Ribbon Singapore Youth Chapter is the newest addition to their ever-growing family of mental health advocates.

The youth chapter will be engaging in 3 programs that will be expanded as the chapter grows.

The decluttering program will involve volunteers helping to clear out the houses of hoarders (individuals who tend to store excessive amounts of items in their homes, to the point where it affects their daily life), as they have done before and were even featured in the Straits Times Causes Week 2016 for their work (see article link below).
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 The befriending program will involve our volunteers being dispatched to be with the mentally ill within the community (e.g., accompany them to check-ups etc.).  Now we all know how lonely and scary it can be to go for medical appointments at times, especially when you’re worried about the outcome of that appointment.  Imagine if you had an anxiety issue, that worry will just become even worse, and that is where our volunteers can step in and help assure them everything will be fine and that going to their medical appointments will help them get better in the long run.

The outreach program will require volunteers to help with administrative duties (e.g., answering queries or directing people to relevant sources etc.) at our various outreach programs.  Stigma and lack of mental health awareness is such a big problem in our community these days.  While much is already being done by CHAT (Community Health Assessment Team under the Institute of Mental Health) and other mental health VWOs (which we will be covering in more detail in another post), the youth chapter will be a great platform for youths interested in combating stigma and educating others about mental health issues to truly make an impact!

So to everyone passionate about the mental health community, take this opportunity and head down to the Silver Ribbon Singapore Youth Chapter’s Facebook Page to find out more and sign up to join them!

An Interview with CreatingSmiles

Image Credit: CreatingSmiles
1)  What is CreatingSmiles and what does CreatingSmiles aim to do?
It is a brand/title i created to do mental health advocacy.  CreatingSmiles aims to empower individuals in recovery to view themselves as a strength even if society sees them otherwise.  It hopes to become a platform where individuals in recovery can come together and feel like they aren't alone, to feel heard and understood, and to empower themselves to show society that they can achieve as well.  Lastly, it strives to break the stigma of mental illness held by society.  CreatingSmiles' catch phrase is
"People with mental health conditions struggle with misunderstanding and discrimination that is more damaging to one's well-being than the condition itself"
2)  Some examples of things done by CreatingSmiles for mental health?
Mostly talks and personal sharings, as well as exhibitions.  One such exhibition was "the black dog", done in collaboration with the Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT).  The exhibition raised awareness on Dysthymia, a type of Depression that is chronic and often misunderstood, through a hands-on experience.  Participants looked around and analysed objects in a mock-up study room of a student to identify tell-tale signs of someone struggling with Dysthymia.  The idea was that mental illness is often invisible, and one must learn to look beyond the surface to identify the symptoms and signs.
Image Credit: CreatingSmiles
3)  Who is Nadera? Any hopes for society?
Me!  I am Nadera 😁;  a person with lived experience and who is struggling with Dysthymia, and subsequently anxiety, since the age of 16.  I will be turning 25 in 2017 and still have a long way to go in my recovery journey.  My hope for society is that everyone will develop empathy for others.  It need not be for mental health issue but basically for any issue someone is going through, to have the emapthy to understand that everyone's experiences are different and unique.  To not make assumptions, but rather to respect their experience for what it is and try to see it from their shoes and not our own.

I also want to encourage others who want to do something to just do it.  It may seem small and insignificant to merely like or share or write posts on Facebook on a social matter, but the impact can be invaluable.  Since coming open on social media, I have had many peers coming to me privately for a listening ear, to share their issues and seek advice on this stigmatised topic.  As the saying goes, "To the world you me be just one person, but to one person you may be the world".  Don't dismiss the small things you can do everyday to make the world of those around you a better place.

4)  How did you come to develop CreatingSmiles?
It was created during a "mania" moment when I was in University.  I even created namecards for it.  Maybe it was a good thing, but many a times CreatingSmiles has been often misunderstood to be a social enterprise.  Guess I should be honored that it appears that way 😄.  Whilst I did have such big dreams for it, CreatingSmiles at least for this very moment is a live Facebook page.  Through it, I share information on mental health and connect with others.  It is also through the page that i have been identified and invited to give talks or media interviews.  So having a brand/title has helped me widen my outreach to allow people to easily remember and identify my work.

5)  What do you hope to accomplish through CreatingSmiles?
I want to continue using CreatingSmiles to carry out my passion for doing public education and advocacy works in mental health, particularly youth mental health and depression.  Everyone who is successful started from something small, and that is how i see my journey with CreatingSmiles.  I have come a long way, from just giving a sharing at a book launch to sharing live on CNA.  I have God, my mentor, CHAT, my peers and colleagues to thank for that.  I had envied fellow advocates whom I have come to work with who are author of books and owners of social enterprises, basically being really successful in what they started out in.  But soon I have come to accept my limitations and to continue to build on the one asset I have with me: My voice.

Note from SG Psych Stuff: You may contact Nadera at her website or Facebook page.

Jon: Mental Health in Singapore

As most of you who are reading this blog are students interested to find out more about the field of mental health in Singapore, we will be doing up this special blog post to share some general information about it.  In 2010, the first ever population wide mental health study was conducted by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU).  Currently, with the addition of Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health from the National University of Singapore (NUS), IMH is conducting a similar population-wide study to track and trend the state of mental health status in the Singapore population.  This study is expected to be completed within this year and would most probably be published at the end of the 2017 or by 2018.

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Based on the previous study in 2010, 12.0% of the adult population in Singapore met the criteria for common affective (e.g., depression), anxiety or alcohol use disorders.  This means that 1 in 10 Singapore Residents are suffering from some form of major psychological disorder.  Additionally, the study acknowledges that these numbers may be higher due to the tendency for Asian populations to under-report psychological destress.  Furthermore, (sorry ladies) based on the study, they found women to be at a higher risk of Major Depression over their lifetime when compared to men, but the good news is that men were more at risk for substance abuse types disorders.  These findings provide a scary reality of a very real problem as mental illnesses are a huge burden for people inflicted with them.  Depression and anxiety are ranked the second leading cause of disability just behind diabetes in Singapore, which shows how crippling it can be when you consider how other more well-known diseases such as strokes or breast cancer are also on the list.

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Mental health is everybody’s business, and hopefully this short article will encourage you to read more about the field in Singapore.  Some helpful resources and articles can be found below to give you a better understanding of what else is being done in Singapore to tackle these problems.
Stay tuned for the post on the various VWO’s and Government Agencies uniting in the fight against Mental Illness in the coming posts!

Resources: [click on the titles to be directed to the articles]
  1. A population-based survey of mental disorders in Singapore
  2. Gender differences in major depressive disorder: findings from the Singapore Mental Health Study
  3. Beliefs About Help Seeking for Mental Disorders:  Findings From a Mental Health Literacy Study in Singapore
  4. Making in‐roads across the youth mental health landscape in Singapore:  The Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT)
  5. Recognition of mental disorders among a multiracial population in Southeast Asia 
  6. National Mental Health Blueprint
  7. Community Mental Health Team Programme Report
  8. Mental Health Educational Brochures