In celebration of Kindness Day SG on 20 May 2016, The Pride takes a look at the groups that have made a positive difference in the community.
This week, we feature the perspectives of Linette Sung, co-founder of The Make A Difference Race.
“If we don’t do it, who will?”
It was this exact sentence that kick-started us into organising The Make A Difference Race (“The M.A.D Race”), which is a ground-up movement (“GUM”) to raise awareness and fight the social stigma surrounding depression and other mental health conditions.
It all started with my best friend, Kate, whose uncle committed suicide due to depression. After mourning him, she felt a huge burden to raise awareness about depression, so as to prevent the same tragedy from happening to other people. As an avid runner herself, she was inspired to organise a run as a platform from which to springboard her advocacy for mental wellness.
Kate bounced off the idea with me and I was sold in a heartbeat. You see, I too had gone through a period of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when my grandmother, whom I loved dearly, passed away in 2006. I was blessed to have received strong family support, and coupled with prompt professional help, I had recovered quickly.
It has also been my desire that others going through similar experiences can experience the same victory and breakthrough that I had. Thus, when Kate shared her idea of organising a run to raise greater awareness on this seemingly common yet taboo topic of depression and mental health, I knew immediately that this was something I really wanted to do.
We shared the idea with our good friend, Joel, who majored in Social Work at the National University of Singapore. Through his studies and work with youths at various internship locations, he realised that there was a rising trend of self-harm among young people, who saw it as a mechanism to cope with their depression, and this greatly concerned him.
Hence, the three of us embarked on a challenging but meaningful journey to Make A Difference in the lives of people in the mental health community.
It wasn’t an easy journey though. One of the biggest challenges we faced was that not many people felt connected to this issue, and as such, getting funding for the race was difficult. We were not even able to break even for our race event last year.
Many donors and sponsors required tangible and measurable outcomes before they were willing to fund our GUM. However, as our GUM is an awareness movement, it is very hard to measure and quantify the success and effectiveness of our advocacy efforts in the short term. This is where we face a lot of difficulties and are often very disappointed and discouraged by the lack of financial support.
Despite that, seeing the race flag-off last year was one of the most memorable moments for us. It was a touching and surreal moment for us to actually see what we had been dreaming about, and working hard for, come to pass. To us, this is more than just another run; it is about running for a cause that we so strongly believe in. It is significant and symbolic to us because we believe that life is like a race. It really does not matter how fast or far we run, but that we get to the finishing line together.
Our conviction and passion helped us overcome the difficulties, and the positive and encouraging feedback and comments that we received affirmed that we are on the right track.
We also hope that we have shown that a little act of kindness can go a long way, and though there will be setbacks, if you keep your eyes on the end goal, you too can make a difference. We hope to see more people starting GUMs to help the causes that they strongly believe in.
Linette Sung is the co-founder of The M.A.D Race, a running event that aims to raise awareness about depression and alleviate the stigma associated with mental illness.
Themed “Light of Hope”, the 2016 Make A Difference Race will comprise of a 7KM competitive run and a 3.5KM buddy run. During the race, participants will be given shoe lights to “light up the path”, which signifies bringing light and hope to the world. They will also collect a set of 7 rainbow-coloured wristbands inscribed with positive messages. Registration for the race is now open.
Click here to watch the video of The M.A.D Race 2015