Penang World Mental Health Day 2014

By Jasniza Johari. Photos provided by Miss Foo Pei-Lynn and Koh Ti Ming.

The people of Penang had a blast lending their voices for mental health awareness at the state’s celebrations on the 18th of October. An interactive concert was held at DISTED College’s Yeap Chor Ee campus, featuring Jana Stanfield, an award-winning singer-songwriter from the United States and her famed vocalist partner Nathen Aswell from Canada. Various groups under the Mental Health Coalition of Penang (MHCP) also organised several activities for the event, which was open to the general public. This was also a golden event for the Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) students of DISTED, as they got a chance to facilitate certain activities and also get in touch with the mental health network in Penang.

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Miss Silviane Bonadei sharing her psychosocial work experience with DISTED Psychology students at the guest lecture.
Miss Silviane Bonadei sharing her psychosocial work experience with DISTED Psychology students at the guest lecture.

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Participants engaging in the “Human Laughter Wave” during the Laughter Yoga Session facilitated by Jana Stanfield.
Participants engaging in the “Human Laughter Wave” during the Laughter Yoga Session facilitated by Jana Stanfield.

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The event kicked off with a Laughter Yoga session, facilitated by Jana Stanfield herself. Once the participants started to warm up, roaring sounds of laughter were evident throughout the grounds of DISTED College! This merry activity was then followed by an ice-breaking session, where participants were divided into groups. Ice-breaking consisted of a short introductory sharing session, followed by fun games aimed to encourage bonding. The Psychology students were tasked with facilitating games such as “Wind Blows”, a fun-fact spin on the popular game Musical Chairs; and “The Cowboy Game”, where participants were tested on their speed and accuracy of remembering names. Participants had a jolly time in getting to know each other in the process.

The poster and banner-making activity commenced soon after. Participants were given a whole array of art materials and encouraged to let their creative side take over! All they had to do was to express their “voices” through art and share their messages for the mental health community. These messages were aimed at inducing awareness to the general public on issues concerning mental wellbeing. Even young participants had a great time expressing their support for mental health through art – one boy sketched a poster of Captain America as it was his wish to help others in need just like the superhero himself.

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Posters made by a group of participants.
Posters made by a group of participants.

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DISTED Psychology students join Jana and Nathan for a final number during the WMHD event.
DISTED Psychology students join Jana and Nathan for a final number during the WMHD event.

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The many colourful posters and banners displayed in the Hall provided a warm, welcoming spirit to the community that went full-force once the keynote concert began. The concept behind “Let Your Voice Be Heard” was very novel as it included dialogues with several speakers between intervals of live music by Jana Stanfield and Nathen Aswell. Jana played a cover of the song “Secrets” by pop star Mary Lambert among others, and narrated her own experiences throughout the set. Nathen played his unique bass-guitar-piano composite instrument (known as the NS Stick) to the tune of the songs he wrote, mainly centred on positive messages. The crowd sang along and clapped jubilantly throughout the concert. In between songs, several speakers were invited to briefly share on the challenges, experiences and messages for the mental health community and general public. The eye-opening session was then followed by a sharing on the posters and banners made earlier. In groups, participants got to tell stories behind their artworks and share their hopes for the future of Malaysians regardless of their mental health background.

The event concluded with a short prize-giving session to the winners of the Mental Health Quiz organized by Dr. Lynne Yong. The quiz tested participants on their knowledge of mental disorders and many were surprised to find that many key international figures and celebrities also experience issues with mental wellbeing.

Altogether, the participants went home with pleasant experiences and a renewed spirit to continue lending their voices for awareness on mental wellbeing. Feedbacks provided by student facilitators were also positive and encouraging. “It was thought-provoking to listen to others’ experiences with mental health disorders, especially surrounding the stigma in public,” said DISTED student Sivaaruban Prabakaran. “I believe everyone has a part to play in increasing awareness of such issues.”. Student Tan Kelven also added, “The event is really a good opportunity for us students. Not only do we get to meet others who are active in the field, but there is also valuable experience to be learned in facilitating groups.”

All-in-all, the lively combined voices of all participants contributed to the event’s success and has certainly become a vital milestone for the Penang mental health community and DISTED College.

Back to nature

Business degree students from the DISTED Green Team 2 recently organised an industrial visit to the Baba Organic Farm as part of their community service project. The visit to Malaysia’s first ‘Organic Farm’ qualified under the Department of Agriculture’s Malaysian Organic Scheme (SOM – Skim Organik Malaysia) was a real eye-opener for many of the students.

Upon arrival at Kean Beng Lee Industries (M) Sdn, excitement was written all over the students’ faces as they were shown a video presentation and participated in a brief exercise routine. The staff of the organic farm then delivered a lecture on the importance of organic farming and a healthy diet with vegetables.

Split into two groups, the students were taken on a tour around the organic farm area and the natural zone.

At the organic farm, besides hands-on activities like seeding and removing weeds, students learned about the intricate details of crop rotation and crop sustaining methods with strict limits in fertilizer and pesticide use.
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Hands-on activity - Seeding in action.
Hands-on activity – Seeding in action.

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An overview of crop rotation at Baba Organic Farm.
An overview of crop rotation at Baba Organic Farm.

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Chua Yan Min, currently pursuing the BA (Hons) International Business Management, explained that Baba Organic Farm is managed by a team of environmentally conscious individuals who strive for a greener Mother Earth. “We were advised to consume more vegetables, specifically the organic varieties, and less meat to achieve a healthier well-being,” he added.

His fellow coursemate concurred with him, “It was a wonderful experience for me to participate in this green initiative as children living in cities no longer have the chance to see and be involved in farming activities. I have gained extra knowledge in farming and will now support organic vegetables as the farmers here have put in a lot of effort to ensure the conservation of mother nature and for the benefit of our health.

At the natural zone, students were guided through different stations around the area. These stations were kept at varying temperatures and humidity levels meant for different purposes. The zone was left in its original state without changing or removing anything, as fallen trees slowly decomposing away can be seen on site.

Lim Kim Sim, pursuing the BA (Hons) in Business Management spoke of his experience after taking part in a short meditation exercise, “When we closed our eyes, I could ‘smell’ greenery and felt so peaceful. There was this amazing sound of birds singing in the air, and you could literally listen to the sound of crickets and insects. Unfortunately, we could also hear the noises of trucks and the traffic, and it brought us back to the reality that we are living in a modernised city. Humans need to realise that deforestation brings destruction and harm to the ecosystem, and it’s time to start using recycled products.”
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Listening to the sounds of nature.
Listening to the sounds of nature.

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Students were asked to touch, feel and smell the biodegradable waste used at Baba Organic Farm.
Students were asked to touch, feel and smell the biodegradable waste used at Baba Organic Farm.

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“It was a great opportunity for us to explore the organic farm and experience the hard work of a farmer. Through the visit, I realised that education plays an importance role in protecting mother nature and it benefits students to discover more about the natural environment,” said Mot Yao Zhang, BA (Hons) in Marketing Management student.

Lim Eong Chyng, pursuing the BA (Hons) in Business Management added, “It was indeed a thoroughly enjoyable visit and I definitely learned more about organic farming. I look forward to going on more excursions like these in the upcoming projects by DISTED students.” The visit ended with a light vegetarian lunch provided by Baba Organic Farm and a question & answer session.

Creative minds at work during Lego Mindstorms workshop

An introduction into the world of robotics
An introduction into the world of robotics

Some 21 students and three lecturers had their minds blown away at an introductory Lego Mindstorms workshop organised in collaboration with the Penang Science Cluster (PSC) recently.

The students, who were pioneer members of the newly set up DISTED Makers Club under the supervision of lecturer Dr Low Khee Lam, had a whale of a time toying around with the Lego robotics kits. The session at PSC’s Maker Space at Krsytal Point was facilitated by Mr Edmond Koay, a PSC volunteer, who gave an informative introduction on robots and their supporting roles in our daily life.

Building a robot from scratch
Building a robot from scratch

He further progressed to explaining and demonstrating the intricate details of Lego Mindstorms, a customisable and programmable kit of Lego robots. These Lego bricks, embedded with different kinds of colour sensors, gyro sensors and distance sensors, allow users to programme the EV3 robot to make its own decision.

After being introduced to different kinds of motors that enabled the robots to move around, the students were then asked to put their knowledge to test. Following a step-by-step guide, the students worked in teams to build their own robots. It was far from boring as they were taught to programme their robots to perform a series of movements, one of which was to move around an oval-shaped track.

Students placing their robot to move around the oval-shaped track
Students placing their robot to move around the oval-shaped track

Club advisor Dr Low was grateful to the Penang Science Cluster for conducting the workshop as it gave the students a first-hand experience in exploring the world of action science. The DISTED Makers Club, he said, is open to students who have a strong interest in all things scientific and a flair for robotics.

Lecturer Mr Khor Ee Keat commended the PSC for setting up a well-equipped centre with a wide range of engineering tools and equipment. Mr Teng Wei Jian, another lecturer who accompanied the students explained, “it was easy to master the programming of the EV3 robots, and this activity should not be limited to only Science and Technology students.”

Students Tan Lit Wei and Victor Teh enjoyed themselves during the 4-hour hands-on session. “The assembling part of the Lego components was easy but the programming was very challenging. However, I gained a lot of programming knowledge from the workshop,” Lit Wei said.

Victor, a Diploma in Computer Science student added, “I can put my programming knowledge to good use with the Lego Mindstorms sessions. It was so much fun!!”

To become a member of the DISTED Makers Club, feel free to contact Dr Low at the Staff Room or drop him a message at kllow@disted.edu.my or kheelamlow@gmail.com