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  • Charlene Kwa

The Labels We Use

Updated: Apr 25, 2019


LD, LS, LF, my new home is filled with strange labels like these. It’s my mum’s attempt at helping us distinguish between the various switches for the living room down-light, living room side-light, and living room fan. I’m glad for the clarity that these labels bring as I get used to this unfamiliar space.

If only labels were so useful elsewhere. I have the same desire for clarity in making sense of the world around me but the truth is, the world is made up of people, and people are complex. Yet, we continue to place labels on each other all the time, categorising certain groups as elite or average; certain races as violent or virtuous; even certain nationalities as advanced or backward. We place labels on ourselves too; I recently realised that I’ve been living with the narrative of being ‘not good enough’ in my drive for perfection - a label no one else has imposed on me but myself.


Another group of people that bears the burden of such labels are persons with mental health conditions. The words ‘weirdo’, ‘weakling’, ‘nutcase’, ‘crazy’, or ‘siao’ are still commonly used today, although we are more discreet about voicing them out loud.

This is the context behind our recent collaboration with the National Council of Social Service (NCSS). We created the beyond the label expansion pack to help players become aware of mental health conditions and its impact on society, and to explore our spoken and unspoken biases towards persons with mental health conditions. Launched at the Mental Health Festival on 8 Sep, decks have been distributed and are available to community partners who work to reduce the stigma of mental illness in Singapore.


The most effective way to break down sweeping generalisations towards a group of people is to sit and talk with them. Face-to-face, we can finally see each other as human beings, with all our perfections and imperfections. My hope is that we will have the courage to continue these challenging conversations about mental health. One way to do that is to give each other permission to ask and answer questions. Only then can we challenge, and in time, change our deeply rooted biases. May the only label we use be the most all-embracing one of all - that of being human.

#mentalhealth #beyondthelabel #notgoodenough