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Friday, 15 May, 2020

Duke-NUS students promote mental resilience through virtual pet therapy

Student leaders of Duke-NUS Medical School’s community service project organise first ‘Duke-NUS’ Pet Day’ to provide support on increasing mental health awareness, especially in this time of a pandemic.


Singapore, 15 May 2020 – Student leaders at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) leveraged on an opportunity within a crisis to further champion their cause of promoting mental resilience and well-being in the society.

Actively passionate about supporting and increasing the awareness of mental health conditions among young adults in Singapore, the team from Duke-NUS’ student-led community service project, I’m STEADY lah! (ISL) remained steadfast to their mission amidst the constraints of the COVID-19 crisis.

They leveraged on technology and hosted a virtual Pet Day via Zoom, a first for the school, to reach out to Duke-NUS’ staff and students to support one another in this time of isolation, separation and anxiety for some. Said Sidharth Malhotra, first-year student of Class 2023, who led the initiative, “With the circuit breaker measures in place, our team at ISL hoped to organise a platform to allow members of the Duke-NUS community to stay connected and show support for others through these uncertain times. The Duke-NUS’ Pet Day 2020 was organised to achieve this objective, bringing together pet lovers on a virtual platform. Through similar mental wellness initiatives, ISL will encourage more unity and support for our community.”

“Our students have been exploring on a Pet Therapy Day for a long time now; and this circuit breaker has created an opportunity for them to achieve the goal of reducing stress through pets in a creative way. I am on board with all student events that strengthen community and esprit de corps in the student community. We can all do our part to enhance mental health awareness, but having an event with this as the explicit focus pushes the initiative forward.  This is especially important for medical students and doctors and we need to actively decrease the stigma of mental health to ensure individuals seek the help they need and deserve,” said Dr Mara McAdams, Associate Dean, Alumni Relations, Duke-NUS Medical School.

During the virtual event that lasted for about two hours, some 30 students and staff of the Duke-NUS community showed off their fluffy friends at home and the animal lovers also stayed for an evening of animal-themed games. “I really enjoyed the event as it allowed us to interact with our classmates beyond the confines of the e-classroom. Although we see each other every day on Zoom, home-based learning can sometimes be isolating for some of us as there is minimal human interaction. During the Pet Day, it was heart-warming to hear how everyone else was coping with the current measures. I would like to attend more of these talks on mental health resilience and as they remind us that there are innovative ways to show social and emotional support despite social distancing measures,” said Tracy Nang, a first-year student who attended the event with her pet.

Pet Day
Sidharth Malhotra, Class of 2023, Duke-NUS’ MD Programme (top right of picture) and other team members of I’m STEADY lah!, who organised the Pet Day event.

About I’m STEADY lah!

I’m STEADY lah! (ISL) is a student-led community service project in Duke-NUS Medical School. The project aims to promote awareness on mental health conditions among young adults in Singapore. Now, in its third year, “STEADY” stands for Supporter of Tackling Endemic Anxiety and Depression in Youths.  In collaboration with other national healthcare organisations, students on this project have been reaching out to support others in tackling social stigma of mental health issues.

For media enquiries, please contact Naseema Banu, Duke-NUS Communications.