Singapore-based artist The Colour Fool premiered his original song, “Cross Your Ts”, at the Beyond the Label (BTL) Mental Health Festival on 7 October. The song is based on his lived experiences with mental health.
But who is The Colour Fool?
The Colour Fool is Dr. Sean Ng, a medical doctor who had symptoms of anxiety and burnout that he sought help for. This experience opened up conversations with his peers, and they created the Medical Peer Support Group.
Together with his fellow doctors, they have become peer supporters for others in the medical community facing mental health challenges, and they are looking to grow the movement.
“Cross your T’s” is a heartfelt expression of his lived experiences through his music. He connected with NCSS through his advocacy for mental health, who invited him to perform the track for the first time at the BTL Mental Health festival on 7 October and it will officially premiere on YouTube on 20 November 2022.
To gain more insights into his song and experiences, we conducted an email interview with him to find out more about him and his experiences with mental health.
Q: What inspired the name “The Colour Fool”?
“The Colour Fool” is a pun on the word colourful. I’m a fan of multi-coloured things!
Also, I believe that at times we have to be vulnerable, adventurous, or in a sense, “foolish”, to embrace life in all of its colour.
Q: What inspired your song lyrics? Did song writing provide you with a safe way/ space to express your anxiety and burnout?
The phrase “Cross Your Ts” is taken from the saying “dot your Is and Cross your Ts”. It is a reference to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and the lyrics of the song reference other mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, anxiety, mania and depression. In the second verse, “So you climbed to the ledge/ almost jumped off the edge” is a reference to suicide ideation.
The lyrics are inspired by my own lived experiences with mental illness and the experiences of my friends, family and patients with mental illness as well.
I wrote the song quite a while back ago while I was going through a difficult period, but only found the time to piece it together recently. Music provides a safe space for me to express my emotions and my thoughts. I feel that many a time, I can communicate my ideas better through music than just through words.
Lastly, the song aims to destigmatise mental illness and speaks about the importance of community when it comes to mental wellbeing. I hope that it encourages people in need to seek help, and reminds us to support our loved ones who are struggling.
Q: What is one thing you aspire to achieve with your medical peer support group in the future?
As the Medical Peer Support movement continues to grow, I hope to see fellow doctors becoming more vocal and open about their mental health struggles.
When we keep our problems to ourselves, we become isolated and cut off from the rest of the community. I initially thought I was the only one struggling, but I soon learnt that my peers were struggling as well. This experience opened up conversations with my peers, and together we created the Medical Peer Support Group. As we learnt from and supported one another, we found that we were stronger together.
Q: How do you think Singapore can improve the way we approach mental issues of anxiety and burnout, in particular, the mental issues that medical professionals face? And what is one common misconception that you would like to address about medical professionals and the anxiety and burnout they face?
I think the first thing we can do is to recognise how common it is and that it can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter what your socio-economic status is, what kind of family background you come from, or your age or gender.
A common misconception that people have is that medical professionals, being “medically trained”, are more immune to mental health struggles. However, doctors, nurses and healthcare workers are still human. Medicine is a very meaningful career, but because the nature of it is so human-centric, sometimes in the process of looking after patients, healthcare workers forget to look after themselves.
The next thing we can do is to have more conversations about mental wellness. We don’t need to face our problems alone; our problems are more common than they may seem.
Q: Currently the system that the medical peer support group has is to find someone who has similar experiences to speak with the new individual that seeks, do you feel that this method has significantly improved the mental health of both parties?
I believe that this is a good system because the peer supporter/mentor can draw on his experiences to advice and support the peer. It is fulfilling for the peer supporter, and helpful for the peer.
We are receiving more responses from peers. We seek to grow the numbers of peer supporters as the movement expands accordingly.
Q: Besides speaking to individuals with similar experiences, how else do you think one can help himself or herself if they are having mental issues, anxiety, or burnout?
If one recognises that he or she is having signs of mental illness, the first thing to do is to acknowledge it and to seek help. This might involve speaking to a loved one, a peer supporter, or seeking professional help- speaking to a therapist, counsellor or psychiatrist.
The incidence of mental illness in Singapore has risen throughout the COVID-19 period and Singapore is already known to be the “OCD Capital” of the world. Still, I believe that mental illness is under-reported and under-diagnosed in Singapore. This is due to the stigma of mental illness and the sparsity of help-seeking behaviour in our culture.
Hence, we should encourage help-seeking behaviour amongst our loved ones and our community. We can accompany our friends and family members to seek help because the first visit to a therapist, counsellor or psychiatrist can be intimidating.
If you do come across anyone you who needs a listening ear or professional help, do direct them to appropriate channels to get help!
Images: Dr Sean Ng