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Mason Chia: From One Caregiver to Another

Behind CAL’s mission for empowering caregivers are our volunteers who have contributed earnestly through involvement in training and outreach. As we welcome the new year, read the journey of one volunteer who found purpose in strengthening others.

Growing up, I did not have much interaction with persons with mental health issues, so my understanding was only in layman’s terms. However, things changed in 2020 when a friend opened up about her struggles with trauma. She shared that she was on medication and going to therapy. Coincidentally, around the same time, I was also reconnecting with some old friends, and more such stories emerged from our conversations. It dawned upon me that many are fighting silent battles around us. With that comes the undeniable reality that mental health issues are far more prevalent than we think.

I suppose when these facts became close to heart, it was natural for me to take action. Whenever they need a shoulder, I will always be there. Yet we are only human; besides there being quite a few friends to care for, there is also the mental-emotional balancing act involved. Although I want to be fully present for each of them, pouring from a half-empty or even fully-empty cup can be overwhelming. Without warning, burnout began to set in: I hid in my room for weeks, wanting to dissociate from everything. I even experienced brain fog and somatic muscle soreness.

It was not until 2022 that I finally confided in another friend about what I was going through. She encouraged me to attend CAL’s Caregivers-to-Caregivers (C2C) training programmes. Hoping to receive some form of help, I joined the Young Caregivers Programme (C2C-YCG).

To be honest, at the start, I didn’t know what I should feel about being a “caregiver”. I always thought that my care and concern were simply part of friendship, but it has somehow become a responsibility over someone’s well-being. Going through the 8-week programme, however, changed my perspective. CAL advocated that everyone is a caregiver. During the programme, I came to realise that I was not alone. Many young people were also caring for someone with a mental health issue.

I had several takeaways from the programme. For one, knowing how to manage communication with the person we care for and establishing self-care practices can help to prevent burnout. Our interaction with each other as a community growing and learning together highlighted the importance of support networks. Every week, we found solace in having a safe space where our challenges could be heard and celebrated our triumphs. Now I have also taken to sharing my feelings with close friends to acknowledge and process them.

Mason as VT during a C2C-YCG graduation

After completing the C2C-YCG programme, I felt the need to pay it forward and support others, and went on to complete the Train-the-Trainer programme. Volunteering as a co-trainer to fellow young caregivers meant a chance to witness their journey towards resilience. Everyone will be a caregiver at some point in life, so equipping yourself is important. And the concepts can be applied to your own life as well!

If you are caring for someone with mental health issues, we invite you to sign up for CAL's Caregivers-to-Caregivers (C2C) training programmes. We also encourage caregivers who have benefitted to support others by becoming co-trainers through our Train-The-Trainer programme. Let's journey together, from one caregiver to another!


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