Feeling 'heat & anger': EDB chief opens up about recent mental health struggle

He says that it's OK not to be OK.

Joshua Lee | November 23, 2020, 09:12 PM

A top bureaucrat in Singapore has opened up about his struggles with mental health amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Bloomberg reports.

The man in question is Chng Kai Fong, managing director of the Economic Development Board (EDB).

He was also the principal private secretary to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong from 2014 to 2017.

Chng, who was part of a panel during a virtual technology conference, She Loves Tech, on November 2, opened up about the "unprecedented year in terms of personal crisis".

He lost his brother-in-law to cancer in April. Another close family member is also going through serious mental health issues.

The emotional and mental state that Chng found himself in was very unique, he said, and one that he had never experienced before.

There were physiological symptoms that manifested, according to Chng:

“There was this feeling of heat and anger starting with palms and then sort of moves towards your entire body.”

“There was one day when I couldn’t even wake up," he added.

"I had to really drag myself out at 11:30 and go for a run because I knew these were signs of depressive bouts. Even during the run, I was super breathless. It was a bad sign.”

In its report, Bloomberg quoted a Mercer survey which found that more senior management (jumping from 9 per cent to 33 per cent) reported experiencing high levels of stress during the pandemic.

Chng said that he decided to share about his experience with people who might face pressure to lead during uncertain times.

He found that acknowledging that "it's OK not to be OK" helped him to cope with the pressure. He also suggested pro-actively seeking help.

Chng said that while such situations will always take time to heal, he decided to openly share his experience with others who might be facing mounting pressure to lead during times of fear and uncertainty.

One thing that helped him cope is to “acknowledge that it’s OK not to be OK,” he said. Another thing is to pro-actively seek help.

“We can do a lot more as leaders to acknowledge that and to share a little bit more about ourselves. And that builds trust.”

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Top image via Challenge/PSD.