Last week, we gathered to hear fellow Gen Zs pour their hearts out about mental health.
The common consensus of the night? Many of us struggle with mental health, and no one is alone.
- ERIKA MOK (17), polytechnic student
- VANESSA LEE * (21), university student
- CLIFF SEOW (24), university student
We heard from these three panellists on their journeys with mental health struggles, their biggest takeaways and their advice for anyone on a rocky road.
VANESSA: Asthma and anxiety amidst the A-Levels, I eventually took a gap year
* Vanessa opted for a pseudonym for the sake of confidentiality.
There was always immense pressure from my parents to excel in school.
They already had a list of “ideal” schools in mind for me, but I ended up in a junior college which I didn’t plan to go to. That was seen as a failure by them.
Things continued to take a turn for the worse in the middle of J1, when I suddenly wasn’t able to breathe.
What happened was that while I was playing frisbee, I started hyperventilating. The next thing I knew, I was in the doctor’s office, receiving the news that I had asthma.
I went from being physically fit, to being diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma (which eventually became chronic asthma).
What struck me was the fact that I had suddenly lost my ability to breathe normally.
I couldn’t breathe in school because of how much dust there was. I was so afraid.
I never even realised how the ability to breathe was such a blessing.
In Year 2, my anxiety episodes began.
When a teacher asked me a question I didn’t know the answer to, I started panicking and ran out of the classroom, crying and not knowing what to do.
I was at a loss, especially when COVID-19 broke my support system. People who were present were no longer there, and I struggled with the isolation.
Even when we emerged from COVID-19, another giant was in front of me – the A-Level examinations.
I was extremely stressed. I didn’t know what to do if I didn’t do well. The anxiety was crippling. I couldn’t study, eat or sleep.
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t do ideally for A Levels.
Where could I go? There weren’t many options and I couldn’t understand the path ahead.
I no longer understood anything.
Friends, teachers, grades… I felt that there was nothing I could rely on anymore.
But over time, God began to speak to me. I felt Him say to me, “Who said I defined you by your grades?”
I eventually took a gap year, in spite of my parents’ disapproval.
But God is so good. I managed to get internships, and it helped me figure out what I wanted to do in life.
I could still see God’s fingerprints in my life especially when I entered university.
Upon entering university, I told Him: “Even if Your plan isn’t what everyone else says is good, I’m going to trust that.”
However, I was still afraid of the uncertainty I would face entering my current school.
But, again, I felt God challenge me: “Can you just trust that My plans for you are good? Why don’t you start seeing that I’m going to use you wonderfully right where you are?”
I’m so thankful to have entered this school as God has blessed me with a community that I never had. If I didn’t enter this university, my life wouldn’t have transformed.
I started to see how God was piecing everything together, He was so good because of these friends He’s put on my path and the support I am receiving.
There is beauty wherever God has placed you, He is in control and you can trust in your everlasting and loving Father!
CLIFF SEOW: Trusting God in the darkest moments
Back in June 2018, I felt God suddenly say to me: “It’s going to get very rough from here”.
I was dismayed. “What do You mean?” I asked the Lord.
“You’re on a plane, you’re flying really high right now but you’re going to crash. You have two options: either stay in the state that you’re in now and crash, or free fall with Me.”
I was in disbelief.
Soon enough, I started to experience misunderstandings and cracks in my friendship groups.
As these episodes of misunderstandings and miscommunication grew, I felt that the rough season was imminent.
I confided in my cell group leader who advised by saying, “Take this time to understand your identity in God”.
He also told me about the simple but challenging prayer he had made before: “Break me”.
That stunned me at first. I couldn’t understand why a person would willingly ask to be broken.
But during one church service, I felt I had to respond to the altar call as I sensed God was prompting me to make that same prayer — so I did.
This was when my difficult season started…
During my internship, I wanted to learn as much as possible so I took almost every opportunity that came my way (regardless of whether I was up to the task).
Eventually, the work and deadlines started piling up. I was extremely stressed out and overwhelmed, and I also lacked a community I could rely on since my friendship groups were not doing well.
At the same time, my grandaunt in Australia also passed on and my parents flew over to help settle the funeral arrangements.
I was all alone in Singapore during one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I had no friends, no family to rely on, and I was stressed everyday.
But this was also the season when I learned to trust in God.
I remember crying and telling God: “Lord, I can’t do this on my own, I need You to be here.”
The Lord met me where I was, and I felt Him say: “In every season of your life, I’ve been there. Do you trust Me to be faithful and carry you out of this season?”
So I submitted to God and lay everything before Him, and He began to take the broken pieces of my life and turn everything around.
My parents came back and told me that my grandaunt had prepared her own funeral arrangements before she passed on. I realised that this was only by God’s grace.
I got security and closure from my grandaunt’s passing and my parents also walked me through the season.
In every mess there’s a message, and every test in your life can become a testimony!
The Lord also brought a work mentor into my path in the company, who told me that the Lord had sent him to guide me and share my struggles!
My internship and workplace became a place where everyone was extremely encouraging instead of a place that stressed me out.
And as I spoke to my cell leader, I began to see where the different hurts and insecurities in my friendship circles were.
In the end, everything was reconciled.
And God still wasn’t done yet.
I was praying for the youths in my church camp back in June 2019, when I realised that I was interceding alongside the same intercessor who had prayed for me a year ago.
I was someone people had to intercede for, and now I was interceding for others. God showed me that He had taken me through this journey.
I learnt that even as I go through circumstances that I may or may not understand, I know that God has a reason for it all. To know Him better. To rely on Him more. To trust in Him. To know that He will provide a way.
This taught me to look at my circumstances differently. Instead of moping and mulling, I’m learning to ask God what He wants to show me and what He wants me to learn.
There’s a reason for the season and things will turn around.
God is the one who can take us from victim to victor, and from trial to triumph.
In every mess there’s a message, and every test in your life can become a testimony!
ERIKA MOK: Know your limits and who your Source is
Even if you’re working through mental health issues, it doesn’t mean you are in no place to help another person who is struggling.
But ask yourself this honestly: “Where are you? Who is your source?”
If God isn’t your source, how do you get up? And if both of us are down, it won’t help anyone if we’re pulling each other down.
So, you need to know what is your source. Where are you getting your strength from?
Don’t fall into a saviour complex. You are never the one who is saving your friend – you won’t be able to.
I have learnt not to say “I will always be there for you”, and that’s something that I struggled with for a long time.
I used to always say: “I got you, I got you, if you need anything, hit me up!”
But if you have so many people who are struggling with so many different things that are very heavy, and you want to help every single one of them, you will get to the point where you’ll go “I don’t know what I’m doing anymore”.
That was how I realised that I can’t do it. I can’t pull everyone up — and that’s okay.
We are not the saviour. All we can do is to point our friends to help, and to the Source.
And while we cannot carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, there are small things that we can do that will make a very big impact on people’s lives.
I don’t have much, but what I do have is a God who knows what’s going on and is holding my life.
If you’re struggling mentally…
… you’re not alone.
The first step is to identify the emotions at play, and to acknowledge that you cannot do this on your own.
The second step is to look to God. Even in those moments when you feel like God is silent, know that God is there with you. He’s there.
You may not have an answer immediately, but hold on to the fact that you have hope in Christ.
As you read the Bible, take comfort in the fact that there are people in Scripture who faced depression and struggled with mental health too.
There was Elijah, who was so depressed that he wanted to die when Jezebel was after his neck (1 Kings 19:4). Jonah, too, wanted to die because he was so overcome by anger (Jonah 4:3).
God guided them through those seasons, and He can do the same for you. So read and recite Scripture. Turn to God’s Word and find anchor verses that you can lean on for comfort amidst tough times.
The third step is to rely on the trusted community around you. We bear these burdens with one another (Galatians 6:2). It’s very important to have a trusted community so that you’re not alone!
Fourth and most importantly, seek professional help where necessary.
As much as God can and will heal you, He has also blessed us with psychologists, therapists and doctors to help us as well — so look out for resources and share them (including this article) with friends who may be needing a little more help today.
This article was adapted from a panel at Thir.st‘s Mental Health Conversation. We hold spaces for honest conversations like these every month, so simply join us at our next physical event on 20 July, Thursday night at Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church. More details below.
- What is your current season?
- Do you have an anchor verse for this season?
- Do you have a trusted mentor, leader, or community you can journey with?
- Thank them for being in your life, and tell them you are here for them too.
- Seek God about what He is doing in your current season.