Poor mental wellbeing affects us more than we think.

It’s not just illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder that affect us (although these are very important concerns indeed). Societal concerns that can be alleviated by counselling and psychotherapy impact us too. At this point, you may be wondering: That’s all very well, but what does that have to do with me in my professional capacity?

In today’s busy and hectic world, these societal concerns affect us all – including your colleagues, employees and the people around you. Say for instance, youth delinquency. Unbeknownst to you, people we know could be struggling with a youth at risk at home.

In the upcoming virtual National Counselling & Psychotherapy Conference (NCPC) 2020, our speaker Karen Rose Vardeleon will be sharing about how children and youths who have been in conflict with the law can be supported. 

Ahead of her session, we spoke to Karen to understand more about youth delinquency, and how affected parties can go beyond therapy to help youth delinquents internalise families’ belief systems and their phases of acceptance. 

Q What is it about your work that inspires you most?

Helping people recognise their strengths and learning skills that can help clients cope better with their concerns and intentionally build the life they want is always fulfilling.

As a person previously diagnosed with a mood disorder, and a suicide survivor, I have a sense of how difficult and isolating struggling with mental health issues can be.

That you have a service that is needed by many and is for the most part effective, but is not accessed due to stigma or resource limitations, means that doing counseling and psychotherapy is not just a profession but an advocacy. It is worth doing for the potential impact it can bring to persons and communities.

Q What will your session at the National Counselling & Psychotherapy Conference 2020 be about?

I will be sharing about how children and adolescents who have been in conflict with the law can be assisted towards redefining their sense of self, choosing more functional behaviours, and creating supportive relationships (coach, peers, family or society) that can teach/reinforce empathy and moral judgment.

Q Why do you think the topic you are presenting is important to the delegates who attend the National Counselling & Psychotherapy Conference 2020?

There are still governments who want to criminalise behaviours by youth offenders. This neglects what research and clinical practice has affirmed, that youth-at-risk often engage in challenging behaviours due to systemic issues such as lack of education, poor parenting, a need for social connection and belongingness, or lack of role models.

I think it's very important that counselors and psychotherapists are equipped to show that the course for youth-at-risk can be reversed, albeit it may need intensive intervention and cooperation from various stakeholders.

Q In your view, what skills or knowledge must professionals within the mental health community develop in order to keep up with emerging trends and concerns?

I suggest a healthy balance between being academic/evidence-based and being on the ground crafting community-based programmes. Clinicians run the risk of seeing life only through the lens of the people who can afford therapy, or are mental health literate enough to be interested in therapy, while community-based practitioners may tend to shun research. You need both to be grounded and relevant.

Q What tips do you have for people who are struggling with their mental health during the pandemic?

The pandemic is an extraordinary stressor. Therefore, it is okay if you are not as productive or as settled as you usually are. After all, there is a lot to adjust to: restrictions in mobility, economic uncertainty, the constant vigilance for an infection among other things.

Focus on what you can control. Allow yourself a worry window, perhaps 30 minutes a day, but beyond that strive for routine and normalcy to the extent possible. If you're starting to get overwhelmed, rest a bit and recalibrate. Find social support. Explore spirituality (e.g. finding meaning amidst the crisis, surrendering your worries to a higher power).

And remember that resilience can be learned, so increase your access to tools and tips about coping which are readily available online as well on through the assistance of a mental health professional.

Q What do you look forward to experiencing at the National Counselling & Psychotherapy Conference 2020?

I am looking forward to listening to all the talks! I am excited to learn from the ideas and experiences of other counselors and psychotherapists, and maybe make some new friends. I would love to interact with the participants too as it is rare to have the opportunity for a cross-cultural exchange of best practices and experiences. Mental health is an important aspect of people's lives, pandemic or not, and it is always nice to be in the company of those with the same advocacy as you.

Photo / 123RF

Established psychologists from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and the US are speaking at the National Counselling & Psychotherapy Conference taking place virtually on 10-12 November. Pre-order your tickets at the conference to gain deep insights into prevalent triggers of poor mental well-being and the support available. Group discounts with three pax or more registrations are available at an attractive price! Speak to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Regional Production Manager, to register your team of well-being champions today.

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