$1m fund launched to help young people facing mental health issues

SINGAPORE – Young people facing mental health issues here will receive more support to address their psychological well-being with the launch of a new fund on Saturday (July 18).

The Musim Mas BlueStar* Fund was launched from a $1 million donation by palm oil company Musim Mas Holdings at the 12th Global Youth Leaders Summit, which was held virtually this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Musim Mas Holdings is collaborating with philanthropic organisation The Majurity Trust to provide grants to non-profit organisations to support programmes to help young people facing mental health issues.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said at the launch: “Young people are deeply concerned with psychological and mental well-being… and many (of them) sometimes feel a bit helpless as to what they can or cannot do.

“They want to be armed with the skill sets and the knowledge, and more importantly, to be empowered to do something, so (the fund) will provide support and funding.”

For Musim Mas Holdings chief financial officer and executive director Alvin Lim, the decision to donate $1 million to this cause was a personal one.

When he was 19, a friend of his committed suicide, igniting his passion to remove the stigma around discussing mental health issues.

“In Singapore we like to be very competitive and talk about how good our kids are, so we don’t want to talk about these issues and it’s swept under the carpet.

“But it’s precisely issues like these we should be facing so we can tell our kids that they are not alone and that there is hope,” he said.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a greater urgency to provide support for mental health issues, said Mr Lee.

He cited a poll by National Youth Council of 1,500 people aged between 16 and 34 which showed that nearly half of the respondents felt that their mental health worsened amid the pandemic.

Aside from programmes that tackle mental health issues among young people, a portion of the fund will go to supporting research, public awareness initiatives as well as intervention and educational programmes.

A third portion will be used for peer-initiated programmes that young leaders can tap to help their peers.

One of these young leaders is Ms Mursalina Ismail, 22, who heads the manpower department at social development enterprise FutuReady Asia.

Sharing her experience facilitating sessions with young people facing mental health issues, she said: “Sometimes they don’t have a strong background or strong family support at home, so within these sessions we have to be there for them and let them know that they matter regardless of what they are going through in life.”

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