In conjunction with World Mental Health Day, we speak to Lucia Chow – Senior Social Worker from TOUCH Mental Wellness (TMW), who shares her passion for working with people with mental health conditions, and what inspires her to keep going when faced with difficult clients.
Since she was a student, Lucia always had an interest in the topic of mental health of individuals and was certain of pursuing a career in Social Work to help others. She shares, “People with mental health conditions did not choose to become like that. There are many factors in their life that culminate and trigger these conditions and I hope to journey with them to understand and help them.”
Hailing from Hong Kong, Lucia previously worked at a psychiatric hospital where she helped discharged clients transition back into the community. She moved to Singapore in 2018 and joined a Family Service Centre (FSC). “I decided to make the switch to join TMW as I wanted to work with high-risk mental health clients more intentionally on their journey of healing,” shares Lucia, who has been in TMW since 2019.
Through Ups and Downs
As a Senior Social Worker, Lucia deals with moderate to high-risk clients, and oversees programmes such as ‘Supporting Youth in the Community’ (SYiNC) and ‘Live On’, in addition to supporting moderate to low-risk clients and education programmes.
Back in 2021, Lucia recalls a 16-year-old client from the Youth Integrated Team (YIT)who had suicidal thoughts. This client struggled with exam stress and did not feel emotionally supported back at home. As a result of these negative thoughts, she devised a plan to end her life on her birthday. “It takes time for clients to open up and share their struggles with us. I wanted to provide her with a safe space to share her thoughts and what she was going through,” shares Lucia, who journeyed with this client through her ‘O’ Levels and encouraged her to pursue her passion in drama at a local art university.
Lucia shares, “Most clients feel alone and empty. Just listening to them without judgment or providing alternative perspectives can help them have a better mindset towards life. I feel like my presence is helpful and I’m happy when I see a client take small steps towards improvement.”
Going the Extra Mile to Support High-Risk Clients
With her experience in dealing with high-risk clients, Lucia was given the opportunity to work on developing a new TMW programme for clients with high suicide ideation or attempt. Since April this year, ‘Live On’ was set up to support youths with high suicide risk as they transit into the community upon discharge from hospital, with the support of family.
Under ‘Live On’, Lucia and a team of multidisciplinary professionals consisting of social workers, psychologists and counsellors, meet clients weekly until they are more stable. From teaching clients emotional regulation skills, to thinking of creative ways like using art or drawings to engage younger clients as they make a safety plan when they feel triggered, caseworkers also have to work closely with the parents to support them at home.
“Crisis intervention is not easy. Being there for the youth and family during critical moments can make a lot of difference in their lives. We cannot be with them 24/7 but we can provide tools for the client and family to cope with triggers better,” shares Lucia, who is thankful that she’s able to bring her experiences from Hong Kong and apply it to the Singapore context through this programme.
Being Grateful for Both Big and Small Things
It can be emotionally challenging to deal with high-risk clients daily. For Lucia, besides treating herself to a good meal or a trip overseas after a stressful period at work, she makes it a point to find joy in small things.
“Showing gratitude for both big and small things is very important. A lot of people only focus on big dreams and hopes, so it’s easy to be defeated. Spending some time to find gratitude in the smallest things can allow us to find happiness and positivity we need to keep going in life.”
TOUCH Mental Wellness (TMW) runs personalised therapy and counselling programmes to empower individuals to rise above their circumstances. An advocate of mental wellness, TMW has been organising mental wellness awareness mass runs, talks and workshops since 2015. It works closely with corporations to conduct mental wellness talks with an aim of equipping employees with handles to cope with stress and help them build resilience. It also specialises in mental wellness awareness and educational programmes for schools.
Story published in 2023