While it may be rewarding, it’s hard work for our CHAT Ambassadors to execute a project from start to end, helping to improve CHAT’s services. We met up with one project that has reached the pilot stage – the PIER team. This team have been working meticulously for the past one and a half years to reach this stage. Interview below! 🙂
The lovely PIER team (L-R): Doris (“D”), Syafa (“S”), Ridzwan (“R”), Hui Min (“H”)
What is PIER and how did this project come about?
D: PIER, or in full, Partners in Experience and Recovery, is a peer led support group where youths who have gone through CHAT’s Mental Health Check gather biweekly for support. Participants are encouraged to share, listen and learn from each other. This sessions will be facilitated by one CHAT Staff and two PIER facilitators who are young persons, who have gone through relevant training.
It started from us wanting to provide support for the young people. Initially we wanted to do a buddy system to fill the gap between the long waiting period, but after talking with professionals we realised it’s not feasible to have one-to-one support, as it involves high risk and there were many concerns with it. Thus we decided to model after Early Psychosis Intervention Programme (EPIP)’s peer support system. Hopefully when the project is mature enough, we would eventually move to one-on-one contact.
Why did you guys undertake this project, i.e. motivations for pursuing on?
D: I think it started from recognising that there is a gap in the service at CHAT, and we wish to provide more complimentary support for the young people going through the mental health check. Even though there were doubts initially, the staff were very supportive in helping us develop the project.
H: I think it’s very meaningful and it is important to have peer support other than support from professionals. I hope that this programme can help young people who have gone through the mental health check to feel less alone.
S: I have always been interested in filling up gaps in the social service sector, and this project had what I wanted to do. Plus, my groupmates are very passionate about this project and this motivates me to embark on the journey with them.
R: I believe that peers, especially those who are seeking help with regards to their mental health issues, deserve a community in which they do not have to feel alone and are more comfortable in sharing their thoughts in a safe environment, and this motivated me to undertake this project.
In one word, how has the journey from conceptualizing to implementation been?
If there were many roadblocks, how did you guys manage to stay passionate about the project?
D: In my case, there wasn’t a problem with staying passionate about the project. You definitely know there will be roadblocks but it doesn’t affect how you feel or think about the project.
H: It would be by remembering why I signed up to be an Ambassador in the first place, and the project meets the gap – there was a want to contribute in some ways that I could.
S: I have never had roadblocks when working with the group or CHAT, but there are personal difficulties and personal commitments. However, the fact that the group did not give up on me and I wanted to fill the gap helped me to keep going.
R: Knowing that I have my fellow Ambassadors to guide me along every step of the way, even though I may not be that committed myself as I have no prior knowledge of mental health issues.
How do you hope that it will benefit young people in distress?
D: I hope this helps to create a programme that meets the needs of young people who goes through CHAT’s mental health check.
H: That they have a safe platform to talk about issues that matter to them but may find it hard to talk with people about, and to receive socioemotional support.
S: That they have an alternative continued support while waiting for their appointment with the respective referrals/agencies.
R: That they have someone who may have similar experiences to talk to.
What do you hope PIER will grow into?
D: A sustainable program in its own right that is able to grow as a community of youths that are passionate about mental health issues (MHI) as well as youths who receive help and be able to support each other.
S: It’s nice if other agencies who use the same framework recognise our project and use ours as a base, and help to grow it into something meaningful.
Lastly, any words to aspiring CHAT Ambassadors out there?
Every project will have their own setbacks and difficulties, but it will all be worth it in the end. Just apply if you have the passion for it, and you’ll see the seeds you plant grow eventually. You just need to have the passion to make the change in the mental health field.