Thirteen and a half million Vietnamese people (roughly 15 per cent of the population) suffer from a diagnosable mental illness, according to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), as reported in December 2016.
With this in mind RMIT Vietnam chose Mental Health Matters as the theme for the 2017 Emerging Leaders Project (ELP).
The ELP is designed for first and second year students to develop leadership skills while raising awareness of social issues. The project involves collaboration between RMIT Vietnam and NGOs.
Each of the 12 participating student groups researched and raised awareness about a particular mental health disorder such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), and depression.
Breaking popular misconceptions
Through the project, the students changed their own – and others’ – perspectives on mental health disorders.
Trinh Ha Phuong, a Bachelor of Communication (Professional Communication) student and team lead for the OCD student group, said her team conducted a survey and found that 60 per cent of respondents thought OCD is only about cleanliness.
“You might think having OCD is about always having to be neat and tidy but in fact people with OCD have many kinds of obsessions ranging from fear of contamination or committing a sin, to fear of certain numbers, colours or words,” Phuong said.
OCD manifests differently in different people, with only a portion of OCD sufferers afraid of germs, she added.
Quoting a song written by the group for their campaign, Phuong said: “OCD is about spending all day doing one thing. It makes us feel so frustrating.”
As a project the student groups presented their findings and raise awareness about the mental health through creative posters, plays, and songs.
Nguyen Thanh Tam, Founder & Director of the Research Centre for Mental Health and Community Development, and National Director of BasicNeeds Vietnam, mentored the ELP students.
“As much as 25 per cent of the global population will have a mental disorder some time in life, which means anyone of us might face mental problems during our lives,” Ms Tam said.
“Modern life, with its increasing stress and pressure, probably leads to even more mental illness.”
The 2017 Emerging Leaders Project took place in both Saigon South and Hanoi campuses, and attracted about 1000 participants including students and mental health practitioners.
Story: Doan Thanh Van