Mr Keith Chua, Co-Founder of CAL

Mr Keith Chua serves as board member of Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS) for over 15 years and is concurrently the Vice President and Chairman of the Management Committee – providing operational oversight for the psychiatric rehabilitation and recovery services and family care centre. He facilitated the establishment of the Asia Centre for social entrepreneurship and philanthropy at nus business school and served as chair of the advisory board. He has helped in growing social enterprises, actively supports young social entrepreneurs and actively encourages philanthropy.

As a trustee of the Mrs Lee Choon Guan trust fund, he supports charities, arts, education and medical work both locally and internationally. He chairs ApVentures and serves on the boards of Community Foundation of Singapore and NCSS. He was also first Chairman of Caregivers Alliance Limited between 2012 - 2016, representing SACS as a founding member, and a founding member of Caring for Life.

It is a well-known fact that you are passionate about philanthropy and that there’s a legacy of giving in your family. We are curious - what motivates your strong support for mental health?

I attribute the legacy of giving to my Christian faith and my family. My parents were very generous in helping just about anyone - family, friends and charity. As a member of the Anglican Church, I began with helping to raise funds for St Andrew’s Mission Hospital (SAMH) and Singapore Anglican Welfare Council (SAWC)- now renamed Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS), and eventually started volunteering. My first major role was to Chair the starting up of the first residential psychiatric rehabilitation centre – Hougang Care Centre around 2002/3. This was a very helpful experience in learning about mental health issues and challenges in recovery. The realisation was that this was both a challenging area of service and an underserved area outside the primary healthcare system. I saw firsthand how giving planned care to persons in recovery brought positive results. In 2006, we moved into community-based services – helping persons recover within the community. In looking back, I see the combination of seeing the passion of the SACS team in serving, the fruit of their care, the clear need for mental health services to be more broadly available – all contributing to my deepening involvement with mental health services.

In recent years, much effort has been made by various organisations, individuals, and policy makers to raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental health. In your opinion, is this good enough and what more can be done?

If I look back over the past 20 years – yes, we have come quite some way in the areas of better awareness of mental health issues and reducing stigma. I remember some of the early efforts to get our community to better understand mental health issues and to reduce stigma with the hope that more will come forward to seek professional help. Ms Tina Hung from NCSS was instrumental in challenging SACS to do more for mental health work soon after I took over chairing the work; (Hsieh) Fu Hua connected with me (around 2010) and together with Tina we discussed ways to engage policy makers and identify gaps and then see how these could be met. Concurrently we also looked to strengthen service providers and broaden the number service providers. One result was the founding of CAL.

As with many things in life – there is always more that can be done – needs to be done. The area of stigma is still needing continuing education and awareness. I would like to see the day when our community will not resist getting treatment at IMH. We are witnessing more individuals speak openly on their mental health challenges – being more open – and this will help others.

Finally, do you have any words of encouragement for caregivers out there who may be struggling with mental illness in the family?

Over the past 25 years I have seen so many persons recover from various forms of mental illness. Everyone’s journey is different. It is important to stick with the prescribed treatment plan – medication if prescribed must be taken regularly. There are often no shortcuts. Recognising that the quality of treatment and care has improved significantly in recent decades, many persons in recovery can lead normal lives. Even with occasional setbacks, accept these as part of the journey. Everyone will have their own journey in recovery – especially in relation to the time. So don’t give up, and persevere if the recovery seems to take a little longer. Today, the support systems are in place and will keep improving. Caregivers must look after themselves and here is where CAL comes in to provide many helpful options. Remember – firstly seek professional help and follow the guidance. Access support from groups such as CAL, Club Heal, SACS, etc. as required. As caregivers, make sure that as you provide care, you also take care of yourself. Don’t hold back in getting advice, assistance or support at every stage.