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Youth in Action: A survivor of mental health struggles turns his focus to helping young people find their way

As part of a series to highlight youth activism, TODAY speaks to young people in Singapore who are not only passionate and vocal about social issues, but are driving positive change through their actions. In this instalment, mental health advocate Asher Low talks about how his organisation is helping young people cope with the struggles of life.

Youth in Action: A survivor of mental health struggles turns his focus to helping young people find their way

Mental health advocate Asher Low (pictured) talks about how his organisation is helping young people cope with the struggles of life.

As part of a series to highlight youth activism, TODAY speaks to young people in Singapore who are not only passionate and vocal about social issues, but are driving positive change through their actions. In this instalment, mental health advocate Asher Low talks about how his organisation is helping young people cope with the struggles of life.
 

 

  • After going through his own struggles with body image issues, 33-year-old Asher Low decided to set up Limitless, a non-profit organisation that provides counselling for youth
  • Mr Low hired people who had gone through mental health problems so that the young people can relate better to them
  • As the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic increases demand for youth counselling, Limitless hopes to expand its team to help more young people in need

 

 

SINGAPORE — As a teenager, he struggled with body image issues that were so severe that, if it were not for his friends, “I think I wouldn’t be around today”, Mr Asher Low said.

He overcame his mental health problems through the support of his friends, his faith and, later, by seeking professional help.

Having gone through all that, he decided he wanted to pay it forward. So in 2016, Mr Low, now 33, started Limitless, which was first a social enterprise that provided coaching and programmes for youth-at-risk.

He started out small, with just a few volunteers, but quickly realised that he needed to ramp up his operations and shift Limitless’ focus to meet the demand for counselling among young people.

And so, within just three months, Limitless went from being a social enterprise to a non-profit organisation that provides counselling for youth, a “higher calling” that Mr Low said he takes seriously.

"I've made it a point to hire people like me, who have both the professional training and the lived experience, because they know firsthand how it's like dealing with mental health issues,” he said.

"The ability to say, 'I've been through it, too' is not something all counsellors have, but it makes a difference when we talk to the youth.”

As part of the service that Limitless offers, young people may send phone text messages to their counsellors at any hour of the day, and the counsellors try to reply as soon as possible.

"This initiative does require us to sacrifice our sleep as we send messages into the night, and we do have the hidden sacrifice of our own mental health. But the love for the job and knowing the impact we have on the youth keep the team moving," Mr Low said.

The non-profit now has five full-time staff members and three clinical interns. They also have over 100 volunteers who help with the events and fundraising.

One of his counsellors Megan Tang, 27, said that what keeps her going is her belief in the impact Limitless has. Fellow counsellor Deniece Edwine Gomez, 35, agreed, saying that the work is fulfilling, “especially when you see your cases make small accomplishments and make progress”.

Mr Low noted that Limitless is offering mental health support to youth who would otherwise not be getting any such help at all.

He noted, too, that according to the World Health Organization, 50 per cent of mental health issues arise before the age of 14, and 75 per cent by the age of 24.

“Our case workers are also seeing a rise in clients with suicidal ideation, with 27 per cent of our clients struggling with thoughts of ending their life in 2020, as compared to 25 per cent in 2019.”

The non-profit faces a constant challenge of trying to meet the high demand for its services, and the Covid-19 pandemic did not help.

“What surprised me most were the number of clients whose progress was wiped clean when we went from lockdown to Phase One (of reopening the economy), as some were anxious about having to adapt to Phase One,” Mr Low said.

So far this year, Limitless has taken on 330 cases.

The largest hurdle for Limitless is finding funds, especially since its main expenditure is manpower, Mr Low said.

"People are often only interested in funding that goes directly to beneficiaries, but often don't understand the biggest cost (for us) is paying for professional counsellors who had to go to school for years,” he said.

“With the rising number of youth seeking help from us, our counsellors and social workers are often stretched, and we need to be able to hire more qualified professionals to support the work we’re doing.”

Those who believe in the cause can chip in to help, he urged.

“Even a dollar a month makes a difference in supporting the work that Limitless does.”

When asked about the future of the organisation, Mr Low said that it is focused on expanding its capacity to meet increasing demand for its services. The team also hopes to continue reaching out to young people through social media and the internet, and are considering starting a Discord server. Discord is an online channel where users create groups to communicate through voice and video calls, or via text and multimedia messages.

"We want to be as relevant as possible to young people and ensure our services are barrier-free," Mr Low added.

If you would like to volunteer or donate to Limitless, visit its website (www.limitless.sg) for more information.

 

Inform your views: Join TODAY for our lunch time Instagram LIVE series on Thursday, Dec 3, as we discuss how we can break the stigma of mental health and why we are seeing a growing number of youths driving the conversation. Get more information here

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mental health non-profit organisations Youth counselling youth in action

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