She looks after servicemen's mental health in COVID-19 fight

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12 Jun 2020 | PEOPLE

She looks after servicemen's mental health in COVID-19 fight

// Story Teo Jing Ting

// Photos Chai Sian Liang

English Melayu

Being in the midst of the fight against COVID-19 and working 12-hour shifts can be both mentally and physically draining.

But this did not stop some 100 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Medical Corps personnel from giving their all to look after COVID-19 patients at the Singapore Expo Community Care Facility (CCF). And when they need to take a breather or find someone to talk to, Ms Emily Kwek is available to lend a listening ear.

As the fight against COVID-19 continues, Ms Kwek helps to ensure that servicemen deployed at the Expo CCF are managing well.

The 24-year-old is among two defence psychologists who have been deployed to the CCF since 27 Apr. Her role? To monitor the psychological health and morale of the deployed personnel through observing them at work, doing one-to-one interviews, as well as conducting surveys.

"This allows me to get a good sense of the pulse on the ground and know who the commanders and I should pay attention to. In addition, knowing the challenges and concerns that our people face helps me provide feedback to the commanders and recommend measures," she explained.

Ms Kwek is a Defence Psychologist (Psychological Health) at the SAF's Headquarters Medical Corps.

Ms Kwek (centre) talking to SAF operations personnel to find out how they are coping during their deployment at the Expo CCF.

Lending a listening ear

Just like those deployed, she spends her weekends and public holidays working as the "operation runs 24/7".

Throughout the day, she speaks with the SAF personnel (usually during their breaks so as not to disrupt their work schedules) to see if they are coping well. She also does surveys to gather feedback to assess the team's morale and psychological readiness.

An SAF medical personnel attending to a patient at a medical post in the Expo CCF on 30 Apr.

Due to the high tempo of operations, some difficulties that the SAF personnel face include adapting to the changing schedules, adjusting their body clock between day and night shifts, and having accumulated fatigue, shared Ms Kwek.

She will encourage and cheer them on by listening to their concerns.

"I'll lend a listening ear and feedback (to the commanders) accordingly if necessary. I'll also impart some stress-relieving techniques and sleep hygiene practices to help them to cope with their issues."

Proud to be a part of the fight

As the battle against COVID-19 continues, what encouraged Ms Kwek most was how the morale of SAF servicemen remained high.

For instance, some Full-time National Serviceman medics even extended their national service to continue taking part in the deployment.

"They feel that this deployment is meaningful and are willing to put in the extra time and effort to put their valuable skills to good use, despite the high-risk nature of the job. That's very heartening to see."

"In trying times like these, we should always put in the effort to try and help in any way that we can. If there is a chance for me to use my profession to help out, I am definitely more than willing."

Ms Kwek on being a part of the deployment at the Expo CCF

And it is these selfless examples that spur her on to continue as well.
 
"I am motivated when I see the servicemen sacrificing their time and risking their health to help out with this deployment, and being so driven to contribute to the COVID-19 efforts," said Ms Kwek.
 
"I'm proud to be involved in this."

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