Story by Jasniza Johari, Ooi Jiunn Wei and Wong Yee Lean. Photos courtesy of Ms Foo Pei Lynn.
In today’s society, it is extremely vital to possess awareness on issues often related to adolescents and teenagers such as bullying and suicide. DISTED’s Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) programme students were fortunate to be able to volunteer in a half-day workshop on anger, bullying and suicide for teenagers held at SMK Air Itam on the 10th of May 2014. The workshop was jointly organised by several NGOs under the Mental Health Coalition of Penang (MHCP) and led by facilitators Miss Margarita Malayapillay of the Penang Association of Counselling and Psychology (PACP), Miss Seow Hooi Cheng of the Centre for Creative Arts Therapy (CCAT) as well as Clinical Psychologist and DISTED School of Psychology Programme Coordinator Miss Foo Pei Lynn. Several alumni from the School of Psychology were also present to volunteer at the workshop.
The workshop aimed at providing awareness to students, with particular emphasis on the three main issues: anger, suicide and bullying. The workshop gave students, who were mainly 13 – 17 year olds, a better understanding on what these issues were, recognising occurrences of these issues as well as how to manage them. The workshop started off with a Laughter Yoga session, conducted by Miss Sukhveer Kaur. Volunteers from the School of Psychology then helped facilitate several activities with the students who were divided into three groups. In the workshop, students were encouraged to generate their own ideas on what each issue meant to them with the aid of materials and activities. “It’s a rather different approach to awareness than just spoon-feeding students with information. It’s definitely more interactive this way,” said Ooi Jiunn Wei, a second-year student, of the workshop.
In the ‘Bullying’ group, students were given an insight on how bullying surfaces in different forms such as physical bullying and cyber-bullying. Facilitators aided the students by staging a skit, and subsequently prompted the students to generate situational examples of bullying through drawings. The group, led by Miss Margarita, then encouraged students to explore feelings of those involved in the act of bullying and what they may do about it. Psychology student and volunteer Winnie Wong commented, “Students were encouraged to understand the feelings of the bully, the victim and the bystander, such as fear and anger. From there, we tried to get the students to think of ways to deal with situations of bullying. At the end of the session, we got the students to come up in front and tell the ‘bully’ that bullying is wrong through our interactive mini-play.”
The ‘Suicide’ group, led by Miss Foo Pei Lynn, also engaged with the school students in a similar fashion. In smaller groups, they were asked to identify several possible causes of suicide amongst teenagers and adolescents through drawings and words. The facilitators and volunteers then encouraged discussion on detecting suicidal tendencies in young people. This followed with a briefing by Miss Foo Pei Lynn on how to cope with thoughts of suicide and how to help others who display suicidal behaviour. Second-year student Yee Sue Yi commented, “It was very knowledgeable, not only for the students but for us facilitators as well. It’s important to always refer to a mental health professional for help when it comes to issues such as suicide.”
A similar hands-on approach was used in the ‘Anger’ group led by Miss Cheng. The first part of the session required the students to perform a physical activity to represent feelings of tension. Then, the students were encouraged to write or illustrate their own examples of situations involving anger in a comic-like sequence. The students were also given materials such as newspapers and balloons and were asked to create a single object to represent anger. At the end of the session, the facilitator and volunteers encouraged the students to come out and act out situations that led to anger as well as the emotions experienced after the release of anger. “I felt that the message that we were trying to send out was meaningful,” said first-year student volunteer Wang Shaven. “Anger is a natural emotion that we feel at times, but the key here is to be able to control it. Miss Cheng used an analogy to explain how anger may damage us if not released or controlled – if you blow too much air into a balloon, it will definitely explode!”
The volunteers had a very enriching and informative workshop with the facilitators as well as the students of SMK Air Itam. “It’s great to have exposure like this, especially being in the field of Psychology. It’s also a new experience for most of us to interact with adolescents and teenagers,” commented Lee Phei Wei, DISTED School of Psychology alumna and current third-year student at HELP University in Kuala Lumpur. Second-year student Jasniza Johari also mentioned, “It’s great that the MHCP initiated this workshop for teenagers. It’s much needed in times like these where cases of bullying and suicide are so common amongst their age group. It was also beneficial for us Psychology students to be able to work with professionals in the field to help create awareness.”