SOLS Health: A Year in Review 2020

The best part about ringing in the New Year is seeing how people crave to be better. In 2020, many of us at SOLS Health welcomed the new decade with big dreams, aspirations and resolutions to serve our community better. Despite the pandemic bringing about new challenges like never before, it is with great pride that with our collective efforts, we still managed to achieve so many great things together! Here is a highlight of our accomplishments from our respective teams in 2020:


1. Centre Services


The centre team’s main role is client management, which comprises tasks such as scheduling appointments, tracking payments and relationship management, to name a few. When the government announced the implementation of the Movement Control Order in March, it served as one of the biggest operational transformations that we’ve had to face. Having to reconstruct a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), we adapted swiftly to accommodate the new situation— issues in travelling to the centre, implementing online psychotherapy services as well as precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus within the premises. Once the number of cases started to decrease and the situation was deemed safe by the government, we gradually opened our centre again to ensure that more clients can have the in-person sessions they preferred.


When the 3rd wave of COVID-19 arrived in late September, we reviewed our SOPs again to limit the number of in-person sessions in our premises again. We also decided to only open the centre twice a week (Thursdays & Saturdays) in order to dedicate time for online psychotherapy sessions. As a result, we conducted the highest number of online sessions compared to the previous months.


The main highlight of our year was when we conducted a centre cleaning session on the 10th August 2020. To ensure the safety and cleanliness of our premises for our staff and clients, as well as adhering to the SOPs by the government. With the effort of every member from our Centre team as well as several therapists present, the cleaning session took about 6 hours to complete and was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to get to know each other better. As the year comes to a close, we hope to provide more therapy sessions for those still seeking for help and ways to cope throughout this pandemic, and we wish to see it through with you.


Photos were taken during our cleaning session in August.


2. KAMI Team


KAMI, short for “Keluarga Akrab Mencapai Impian” is a community-based programme focused on strengthening relationships between family members through cultivating listening & communication skills in a safe environment. A highlight for the team was the programme they successfully conducted with families from the PPR Seri Semarak, with support from the Mah Sing Foundation. A total number of 12 families took part in this programme, comprising 12 parents and 18 children aged between 11 to 17 years old. The programme, held from September to October, consisted of modules such as communication within the families, listening skills, understanding the roles and responsibilities of family members as well some mental well-being skills such as deep breathing and relaxation techniques.



We also held the Building Champions Leadership Programme (BCLP), where we focused on providing youth with relevant skills to navigate through their teenage years. This included skills such as problem-solving, self-awareness and communication are done in both in-person group workshops as well as online webinars held in collaboration with SOLS247 Education. The programme also aimed to provide a safe space for them to share their ideas and feelings.



We also had the opportunity to collaborate with the AIESEC Kedah-Perlis, an international youth-run, a non-governmental and not-for-profit organisation, to be one of their learning partners for their Northern Youth Leadership Conference (NYLC). Our clinical psychologist trainees conducted the self-development workshop with them on goal setting and decision making.


3. BRAVE Team


The BRAVE team focuses primarily on providing psychotherapy services for the women and children survivors of domestic violence in Klang Valley. Our goal is to provide a safe space and emotional support for the survivors and develop skills and knowledge to restore courage and rebuild their lives and relationships after their traumatic experiences. Earlier this year in January, we conducted the Therapeutic Residential Care training for WAO staff members to improve their knowledge on Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) as mental healthcare front liners. Later in the second half of the year, we also conducted a 2.5 days TIC training workshop for MIASA and Puak Payong respectively to help develop a better understanding of the TIC approach. Including a basic conceptual understanding of trauma, crisis management skills, effective and respectful techniques while interacting with trauma survivors. The training was also provided to our own internal SOLS Health teams.


In September 2020, we concluded our BRAVE team fundraising campaign (which began in October 2019) to further provide services to the domestic violence & abuse survivors. These funds were used specifically to assist clients with financial difficulties to receive psychotherapy and rehabilitation services at a subsidized rate. We would not have been able to deliver these services without the generous contributions and effort made by our donors and fundraisers. Hence, SOLS Health and the BRAVE team would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has contributed and made this campaign a success!


4. Communications Team


As the communications team, it is our duty to bridge the gap between our mental health professionals and the community to make SOLS Health more accessible and approachable for all. This year, we strategized to demonstrate this through multiple community-based interventions and advocacy through different mediums, notably through our multiple social media platforms, blog posts as well as our email newsletter.


As the world shifted online, we’ve also organized several campaigns to further advocate for mental health in Malaysia, such as:

  • How do I Cope series - our interns & health professionals shared on how they coped with having to stay at home during MCO

  • World Mental Health Day Story Sharing Campaign - a collaboration with Taylor’s design students to illustrate real-life struggles submitted by our audiences

  • Spicy Ramen Challenge - a fundraising campaign in conjunction with Men’s Mental Health to normalize talking about mental health in daily conversations


As we move into 2021, we hope to expand our reach to a wider audience in order to fulfil our mission of communicating mental health support and advocacy to all. We hope to create more content that educates and empowers the Malaysian community to talk about mental health more candidly, take actionable steps to take care of their mental health, as well as to demonstrate the efforts of our passionate team in building a healthier community.


5. EAP


Apart from the health implications, COVID-19 has also forced a radical shift in the workforce that has affected virtually every person in the world. While many organisations restructure to accommodate the shifting economy, these resulted in many employees having to endure hardships of many kinds— retrenchment, pay cuts, the stress of working from home and more. Hence, the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) team took the initiative to contact 46 SMEs in the Klang Valley with OSHA departments (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) from June to August and offered them our services.


Despite many SMEs not having enough funding to commit to our services at the time, 22 companies had shown great interest in our expertise and support. Fortunately, as economic activity increased and stabilised over the next few months, our team started getting approached, seeking out our services. From then on, we’ve conducted various talks centring around the theme of destigmatizing mental health, building resilience, how to cope working from home, self-care and more. We also conducted communication skills-based workshops for HR departments & Top Management centring around how to properly deliver bad news to employees and how to approach stressed and/or troubled employees.


Apart from providing continuous support to our corporate clients, we’re also providing support to companies undergoing difficulties in separation schemes and downsizing, which includes existing staff members and retrenched employees. Finally, in our collaboration with MERCY Malaysia, we managed to provide mental health services to our front-liners who have been working day in and out in fighting COVID-19.


6. Research Team


Over the past year, the research team has worked on multiple internal and external research projects. With the data collected, we aim to help demystify mental health, reduce stigma and work with mental health practitioners and policymakers to improve the mental health facilities. Here is an overview of our work this year:


Maternal Mental Health:

  • With IWB, we looked into the improvements needed in the identification and providing services to women suffering from postpartum depression in Selangor. We conducted literature reviews and an online survey, and expect to publish a full report and policy brief by next year.

  • We also provided information and advice to the communications team in hosting a month-long Maternal Mental Health Social Media Campaign. The posts were mainly focused on providing practical advice for mothers and providing the general public with a better understanding of postpartum depression.

COVID Related Studies:

  • We conducted a study to examine the socio-economic impact of the government’s Movement Control Order due to the Covid-19 pandemic on Selangor women’s livelihoods. The findings of this study were then published as a policy brief.

Training:

  • We conducted several training sessions including qualitative, semi-structured interview and focus group discussion training to better equip our researchers for our PPD research. There was also the SPSS training done for members of the IWB

EAP

  • We came up with a multiple-step research plan to identify the working population that are most vulnerable and subsequently, the problems they are facing and how we could pivot our EAP services to better cater to them

Community Support (BRAVE and KAMI):

  • We monitored and supported the BRAVE and KAMI team through data collection to help us better understand and evaluate the work done by these departments.


7. Go Slow to Go Fast


In conjunction with World Suicide Awareness Day (September 10th, 2020) and World Mental Health Day (October 10th, 2020), SOLS Health did a collaboration with Symphony Learning to conduct a month-long webinar series to promote better work-life balance and mental health. Learn more about the event in our separate blog post here: An Empowering Month-Long “Go Slow to Go Fast” Festival.



Conclusion


Considering that mental health has always been one of the most neglected areas of public health, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have definitely shaken the status quo. Although the pandemic presented our team with many challenges, it’s also refreshing to see people, the community and organisations, big or small, finally stressing and educating on the importance of mental health along with us.


Thanks to you, it’s been a powerful step forward for all of us at the SOLS Health team this year. We hope that people will continue to see the significance of mental health and the work that we do, and we look forward to serving you better in 2021!


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