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Mental health is incredibly important and we’re not afraid of grappling with this issue.

Let's talk about depression

Mental health is incredibly important and we’re not afraid of grappling with this issue.

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Hey there, thanks for choosing to read this article on a topic we think is incredibly important. Do note however that content in this article may be emotionally challenging. We speak with someone who has been incredibly generous about sharing his experiences and some of his experiences might be triggering. Please take care while reading.

John Lim’s life may sound like an idyllic one. He runs a content agency and on a typical day, goes to the gym in the morning before he heads to a co-working space where he ideates and writes. He meets clients a handful of times a week. 

But any peace and success this entrepreneur has found have been hard-won. This 28-year old suffered depression twice in four years and even as he hustles for work, he is constantly on the lookout for ways to increase awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental health. 

The first time John suffered depression was at the age of 18 when he realised that he wouldn’t be able to fulfil his dreams of getting into medical school. This started a downward spiral which resulted in him questioning his purpose and contemplating suicide. After picking up the pieces and graduating from an overseas university, he returned to Singapore, where he faced multiple setbacks while trying to get his dream job. That’s when he suffered depression a second time. 

According to data from the National Population Health Survey, the country as a whole is seeing significantly more instances of poor mental health, from 13.4 per cent in 2020 to 17.0 per cent in 2022. Those aged 18 to 29 in particular had the highest proportion with poor mental health compared with other age groups. 

The good news is that more are willing to seek help. Eight in 10 younger adults (those 18 to 29) indicated they are willing to seek help from informal support networks while 6 in 10 Singapore residents aged 30 to 39 were most willing of all the age groups to seek help from healthcare professionals. 

We spoke with John to understand his experience and find out if he has words of advice for the rest of us. 

You’ve spoken very openly about having gone through depression on various platforms over the years. Why do you do it?

I write for the readers who go “oh, that’s so me”. I think whenever we consume art, music, or writing, we are looking for something that resonates with us, that we identify with. So my approach is I share what I’ve gone through and how I’ve emerged from the other side. I hope it helps you but ultimately, you can do what you like with what you’ve heard and leave the rest. I don’t worry about what people think of what I share because if I thought that way, then nothing would ever be published. 

What advice do you have for people who may be experiencing depression? 

Expecting the problem to go away is not the solution. 

During the second season of depression, I met a psychiatrist who recommended that I take antidepressants. I told him I didn’t need it and that I would try talk therapy. Deep inside, I was scared of leaving my happiness to chemicals because it felt like surrendering control and settling for artificial happiness. 

When I explained this rationale to my therapist, he scolded me, perhaps for the first time: 

John, you haven’t even tried! How would you know what happens? 

John, I have diabetes. I need to jab myself with insulin. Does that mean I’m ‘artificially’ healthy?

Depression is as much a physical illness as it is mental. 

That’s when I decided to give antidepressants a go. 

Till today, there’s still a niggling voice within me that says “I should be ok. Why am I not?” We like to think we’re okay and we can fix things. Depression forces us to confront that and acknowledge we’re not okay, we can’t fix everything and we need help. That’s a very deep and vulnerable and scary place to be in.  

For whoever feels ‘off’ or ‘blue’, start with what you’re comfortable with. Maybe you won’t need medication, maybe talk therapy might be enough. But leaving it and expecting the ‘problem’ to go away might be the best option. 

What is a piece of advice you have for people who might know of someone who is depressed?

“I know you’ve gone through some hard times, but others have had it worse.” Does this comment sound familiar? Someone said this to me and it made me feel small, shamed and invalidated for the experiences I had gone through.

We’ve all said this and heard this and it seems to come up more when we’re trying to help someone with depression. “Comparative suffering” is when you compare someone else’s struggles to yours or that of others.. 

A bonus piece of advice: The solution is not always to listen and give space. You’re not a bad friend if you say I hear you but I don’t think I can help. Sometimes it’s just pointing the person to the right person, place, or platform where they can get what they need. 

Here’s a list of resources you might find useful: 

You might be wondering - why is GXS Bank talking about depression and mental health? We’re committed to shining a light on issues that are overlooked and tend to fall between the cracks. We do this on the financial front and are also committed to doing this for social issues. If there’s an issue you think we should take on, drop us a line at 

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