Audio Version Available
Imagine writing a letter to your future self — what would you want to tell them?
This is the question written on postcards pinned on the walls for visitors to read at Spatial Collective, a co-working space with locations in Jurong East, Hougang and Toa Payoh.
Some of the letters are hopeful: “I hope you have finally learned to take rest and be ok with that. Hopefully, you are in a better place, with less worries and pressure to perform.”
Others are encouraging: “Don’t forget to show your appreciation and love to those you cherish ok! You may not have everything you ever wanted, but I hope you have enjoyed the journey up to now.”
All were heartfelt, with the writers reflecting on their dreams for the future, and how far they’ve come.
This is part of a project called “Letter to Your Future Self” by PeacePod, the brainchild of three students from Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary).
The self-reflection in these letters is what PeacePod aims to achieve — empowering youths to care for their mental health and personal growth.
What is PeacePod?
“As youths, mindfulness is a very important part of our lives,” says Judy Chua. “We observed many of our friends getting very stressed out. It’s not something that happened because of a trigger event… it builds up over time!”
It was this observation that prompted the 16-year-old to start PeacePod with her friends, Choy Yuki, and Mohanty Puja Priya. The name itself was inspired by the girls being like “three ‘peace’ in a pod”.
Together, the three schoolmates are the brains behind the initiative, consisting of 66 students across 10 secondary schools.
PeacePod is, at its core, a self-reflection website.
“Think of it as a little self-therapy online space for students,” explains Judy.
The reflection questions are designed to make users answer in a more thoughtful fashion, working through their emotions on different topics in a targeted manner.
“We didn’t want it to be too simple,” says Yuki, adding that they wanted their project to be deeper than the usual self-reflection programme in schools.
Yuki is in charge of the prompts on the website — deciding which questions would best allow users to untangle their emotions, and how they should be worded.
Instead of having easy-to-answer questions, the team wanted conversations that would make users stop and think, then work through how they felt about a particular issue.
Another initiative is a 30-day reflection course, with different prompts every day.
“There’s a progression that helps people to slowly get into the headspace of reflection,” explains Yuki, “since the concept is quite foreign to people our age.”
She is particularly passionate about psychology and tries to apply certain concepts for self-improvement, especially those relating to self-esteem and self-confidence.
That said, the girls are also quick to say that PeacePod is not a substitute for an actual psychologist or therapy session.
“It’s an assumption that everybody has someone to turn to when they run into difficulties,” shares Judy, “but that’s not always the case … we wanted this platform to be a place where people could seek help in the fastest way possible.”
They’re lowering the barriers to entry for youths seeking to improve their mental health — it’s a quick and simple way for people to begin exploring the ways in which they can approach mental wellness issues, without going through the whole process of finding and investing in a therapist.
Flowers, letters and inspiring stories
PeacePod isn’t just about online self-reflection though
The team also reaches out through physical initiatives, like the “Letters to Your Future Self” collaboration with Spatial.
Another outreach initiative was “Flowers 4 Mental Health”, with teams from three other schools — Project Ikigai from CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls’ School, Project YourMindMatters at Dunman High School, and the Peer Support Leaders from Chung Cheng High School.
The initiative, run across the four schools, was aimed at encouraging students during the mid-year exams. The teams gave out origami flowers with messages of encouragement for students to take home.
The campaign served a dual purpose — lifting the spirits of stressed-out students, and raising awareness of mental health.
Another way PeacePod connects with their audience is through stories contributed by its members on its self-help website.
One story explores eating disorders through a heart-wrenching essay on the author’s own journey to her diagnosis. Another discusses depression in a personal way and how it feels to understand the condition.
These stories are raw and personal: “Something is definitely wrong if you are exercising to the point you feel like you taste blood in your throat” reads one line.
By sharing these stories, PeacePod gives a voice to people suffering from such conditions, while allowing readers to relate and connect with these shared experiences.
Challenges and future plans
PeacePod, started in June 2021, with the trio coming together with the idea for a mental health website.
They took six months, through various ideation and conceptualisation stages before coming out with PeacePod, which officially launched on Jan 2 this year.
In March, they received a grant from the Youth ChangeMakers, after pitching their idea during an Open Mic Session.
This allowed them to start recruiting for the organising team — 66 students from Raffles Girls’ School, Dunman High School, Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls School, NUS High School, Nanyang High School, Raffles Institution, Methodist Girls’ School, Hwa Chong Institution, and even a member from Jakarta, Indonesia!
Working with such a large team came with coordination challenges.
“It’s difficult to organise so many people and make sure that everybody has a role to play,” shares Puja.
Working with students from other schools was also a rare opportunity to mingle, as the pandemic had prevented them from connecting with others as much as they’d like.
Other stories you might like
“It was a new experience for all of us,” explains Judy, “it was one of the few times that we interacted with people from other schools. It was an eye-opening experience, especially as the team spearheading the initiative.”
Support from friends was helpful — for fresh perspectives as well as affirmation for the work that they’ve done.
Their teachers also played a part in supporting the girls.
Said Judy: “Our form teacher actually knew about this project right from Day One!”
“Honestly, without knowing that a whole village is behind supporting us, we probably wouldn’t have the courage to start something this big and be out in the community pushing for our cause.”
Plans for the future
For now, the team wants to be able to reach more people.
Parts of the website are still under construction, and the girls are hoping to raise more awareness about PeacePod among youths.
This isn’t stopping them from thinking big though — they want to launch more initiatives, collaborate with other like-minded student groups, or even start up a social enterprise!
Other stories you might like
“There are lots of awesome work out there raising awareness for mental health issues in Singapore and we would love to see where we can value-add to this community, talk to the real experts and collaborate with them,” says Judy.
If you’d like to show your support to PeacePod, follow their Instagram page, and keep an eye out for future events!