Progressing Through Change
Since my return to Singapore recently, the country is starting to have better news, and one of them is the progress of vaccination in this country. According to The Straits Times article dated August 19, 2021, 70% of people were fully vaccinated by National Day on Aug 9, and the government is expecting more than 80% of Singapore’s residents to be fully vaccinated by early September. The same paper also mentioned that a total of 8,486,232 vaccines had been administered under the national vaccination programme as of Aug 17. (Source: The Straits Times)
(Courtesy of The Straits Times)
While the vaccination progress shows some potential in economic and social reactivation, we are still shadowed by the darkness of deteriorating mental health. In fact, the situation is more disconcerting than any of us could have imagined. According to Samaritans of Singapore or SOS, the leading cause of death for those aged as young as 10 to 29 is suicide, and in 2020 alone, we lost 452 lives due to suicide (Source: Samaritans of Singapore). The lockdown has limited the peoples’ movements, social interactions and placed a debilitating fear in all Singaporeans. Families being forced to live separately, employees working from home without physical interactions, social and recreational activity deprivation – all of which, when left unnoticed, can cause a mental breakdown, isolation, depression, and anxiety, among other mental health issues. While speaking to The Straits Times, Dr Goh Kah Hong, head and senior consultant of psychological medicine at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital stated that he expected the pandemic to have a long-tail effect because of the ramifications of prolonged stress and social isolation. (Source: The Straits Times) Just imagine the struggles that will not only occur during the pandemic but also in the aftermath. This is why we cannot ignore the facts and importance of mental health.
This got me wondering, how ready are we to venture into the new norm? Are we mentally ready to go through such drastic changes? While I applaud the government’s efforts in providing the necessary healthcare and medical preparedness, ultimately, I believe we have to rely on people’s strength to curb the aftermath of a global pandemic. In an article I read recently, there was a line by the author that resonated with me, and it is something we should all remember during this trying time:
“Community resilience as a framework can help us to better understand a community’s persistent capacity to overcome and rebound from adversity.” (Source: The Lancet Regional Health Western Pacific).
Like our daily lives, the business world comes with its own set of mental challenges while facing the new norm. Business owners, CEOs, managers, and other senior management level executives returning to the office environment from months of operating from homes will have to get used to the new norms and be mentally ready to lead the employees towards the change. It is more than just getting the offices ready for the employees to come back. They will need to help them adapt and gain back the dynamics they once had. Some companies are facing bigger challenges. It’s not just about adaptability and picking up where they left off. Some companies are facing substantial losses and may have to close their doors permanently. As a leader, such news is heartbreaking to hear. Such a situation is unprecedented and the reality is that you can’t predict what will happen next. No one can. Such unpredictability and uncertainties, ups and downs of the economies, successes and failures, profits and losses – all these can wear down the mental health of any executive or leader. The struggles are inevitable and very real. But safe to say, you are not alone.
Yes, you are not alone. It is worth emphasising this because there are other executives and leaders just like you. I know and have seen them in our EGN Peer Group meetings and amongst our EGN Network. I can say that you are not alone because I have gone through the same psychological struggles you are facing at the moment. These experiences fueled me to finish my book, Executive Loneliness. I wrote this book to bring to the forefront an honest discussion about stresses, pressures, and the mental resilience of being an executive, highlighting that executive loneliness is quite common. Though typically hidden or unnoticed, there are many ways an executive can reemerge stronger from a difficult place. Let’s progress through change together!
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The writer is the managing director of EGN Singapore.