Kua Ee Heok
At the 1st Tow Tiang Seng Distinguished Lecture organised by the NUS Mind Science Centre in 2019, the former WHO Director of Mental Health, Professor Norman Sartorius said, “Medicine should not only aim to increase the resilience of the individual, it should aim to enhance the resilience of the social unit to which the individual belongs.”
To overcome the Covid-19 pandemic requires not just individual resilience but also community resilience. Our environment and the people around us play a crucial role to safe guard or protect us from the danger.
AWE Program and NaMAS
The Age Well Everyday (AWE) program exemplifies the ecology of resilience – a community helping to enhance the resilience of seniors through voluntarism. This program for the prevention of dementia and depression is now in 8 community centres in Singapore. The AWE program is now enriched by the Nature and Mindful Awareness Study (NaMAS) which has shown that mindful walking in the park and rainforest is good for physical, mental and social health.
NUS Mind Science Centre: http//medicine.nus.edu.sg/nmsc
Compassion and Empathy
As a group activity, NaMAS promotes social connectedness and the group culture fostered a sense of belonging, acceptance and positivity. It has also stirred a sense of altruism within the group and this is most obvious during the Covid-19 pandemic when there is a genuine concern for each other and especially for those living alone. The bonhomie is strengthened by the daily group chat on social media and they have formed a choir to sing on World Mental Health Day (We sang in the rainforest).
Protecting the Rainforest
The study has also shown a collateral benefit – an interest in the rainforest among the members and the urgent need to protect it for the future of humanity. During the walks through the rainforest, there are discussions on biodiversity and the eco-system including life beneath decaying fallen trees like beetles, spiders and crickets.
The NaMAS program can certainly be extended to other communities in Singapore and even to other countries.
Excerpt from the book, ‘Nature. Health. Happiness”, edited by Kua Ee Heok, Vincent Chong, Angelia Sia, Jade Kua. Published by Write Edition (2020).
Kua Ee Heok is the Tan Geok Yin Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, NUS.
Emeritus Consultant, NUH.
Mind Care Clinic, Farrer Park Medical Center