September 13, 2020
Welcome Address by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Education, at Samaritans of Singapore's Walk with Me Virtual Walkathon 2020, Pre-Recorded for FB Live Session
1. Good morning everyone! #howru doing today?
2. Thank you for joining us for SOS's inaugural #howru virtual walkathon 2020
- This is the first time the annual walkathon is being held virtually
- We have more than 2,500 participants joining us
- Our goal is to reach 5.5 million steps together
- While I may not have the opportunity to meet all of you face-to-face, I am glad we are embarking on this virtual journey together
3. Covid-19 is the most serious public health crisis in a century, and it has also resulted in our worst recession since independence
- We see the impact amongst those who fall sick because of the virus; as well as those who lose their jobs
- But there are also less visible impacts – the anxieties and stresses we all feel during this period; the sense of isolation, of being cooped up at home for too long
- In a trying period like this, our community's mental health needs are at its greatest
4. That's why the number of calls received by SOS's 24-hour Hotline during the Circuit Breaker increased by nearly 25%, compared to the same period from March to May last year.
5. Let me take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation and gratitude to the staff and volunteers of SOS for providing a listening ear to those in distress – many of you have gone the extra mile and put in extra hours during this period of time. Thank you very much for all your hard work.
6. We can all do our part too
- There may be people around us, suffering in silence, or struggling with anxiety and depression
- It could be a neighbor, a distant relative or a colleague at work
- If we all just make the effort to extend a kind word or a helping hand to the people around us, we can make a difference
7. This is the motivation for the #howru initiative
- It started 5 years ago as part of SOS's World Suicide Prevention Day campaign, with the aim of starting conversations to reduce the stigma of suicide
- Since then, the #howru black plaster has been adopted as the symbol of suicide prevention in Singapore, and it has helped catalyse many conversations
- Initiating a conversation with someone in distress may seem intimidating
- But asking "how are you?" is a simple first step, and all of us can do it. It lets those around you know that they are not alone, that there are people ready to listen and be present with them in their darkest hour
8. There are many different ways to reach out
- Of course, there's nothing like a face-to-face conversation
- But during this pandemic, we have also found new ways to connect with one another – through zoom calls, zoom meals, or even sending someone a food delivery
- The more conversations we start, the easier it becomes to reach out. Gradually, we can help to reduce the taboo surrounding topics of mental health and suicide
9. At a time when we may feel distant from others, this campaign is a timely reminder to stay connected, to show compassion and to offer kindness. If we can support one another through our struggles, we can emerge stronger both individually and as a community.
10. This walkathon may be a virtual one. But it's an important reminder of the connections we all share. We will never walk alone; we will always be there for one another; we will walk side by side, and overcome all our challenges together. Keep safe and enjoy the walk! Thank you.