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Befrienders KL Director Shares How He Opened His Heart & Ears To Those Crying Out For Help

Since facing mental health struggles of his own, Kenny Lim has dedicated 20 years of his life towards helping individuals who are struggling with their emotional well-being.

Cover image via Kenny Lim (Provided to SAYS)

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Meet Kenny Lim, an individual who decided to take the mental health struggles he faced and dedicate his life to helping those who may be going through a difficult period in their life

As a young adult, Lim admitted that he went through some hard times with his mental health and battled with suicidal thoughts. Thankfully, he had the love and support of his family, who helped him through that difficult period in his life.

Having struggled with his own mental health, Lim realised just how important it was to look out for our mental well-being and to find the support we need during a crisis.

However, he realised that many people who were struggling in the same way he was did not have the same support he got from his family.

"Not everyone has that support in their darkest time of life," he pondered.

And this thought was the catalyst for him to start volunteering at Befrienders KL and putting his efforts into helping others who were struggling in the same way he was.

Lim describes Befrienders KL as a safe space where individuals can visit whenever they feel the need to talk or to vent out their problems

Lim has been volunteering at Befrienders for a whopping 20 years now and has since joined the organisation as a permanent member of staff eight years ago. He admitted to switching careers in order to dedicate his time and effort to the organisation that he fondly calls his second home.

The mental health activist mentions that the organisation focuses on providing emotional support to those who are in distress and lending an ear to anyone who wants to air their problems without the fear of being judged or having their identity exposed.

As the executive director for Befrienders KL, Lim has participated in and conducted talks and workshops on the topics of self-care, active listening skills, and suicide prevention.

Lim shared his own struggles and memorable moments throughout his years of working with Befrienders KL

Speaking with SAYS, Lim recalled a time when he received a call from a man who only spoke in Mandarin. With Lim being unable to converse in the language, the caller decided to just speak to Lim regardless of whether the pair could understand each other. At the end of the call, the man thanked Lim for listening despite being unable to respond much to the caller.

Lim learnt that day that sometimes all a person needs to feel better is to have a person who is willing to let them talk and listen to their struggles.

"What matters is having someone to just be there with you, even if that person is not saying anything. It is a matter of a person being present and 'being there' for them," Lim said.

Aside from language barriers, Lim related that Befrienders KL also took a heavy blow during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the team was overwhelmed with calls and emails. However, he credited the Befrienders KL team for pulling through and working extra hours to ensure that each caller had someone responding to them.

Lim pictured with members of the Psychology Malaysia community after giving a talk on suicide intervention and self-care.

Image via Psychology Malaysia (Facebook)

Lim urges Malaysians to take the topic of mental health and its struggles seriously, and to squash any stigma surrounding suicide

The outreach director hopes that suicide itself will have fewer stigmas surrounding it, so individuals are more open to reaching out for help and talking about their problems.

"We would like people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts to know that they are not alone, that there are people who care to listen to them, and that help is available," he said.

Lim hopes that one day suicide will be decriminalised in Malaysia, as he believes punishing suicidal individuals will only push them further away from reaching out for help and will ultimately worsen their mental state.

Lim giving a talk on mental health awareness.

Image via Kenny Lim (provided to SAYS)

To raise awareness and reduce the stigma, Lim encourages Malaysians to share helpful and accurate information about suicide prevention as well as direct them to helplines such as Befrienders KL

He also wants the topic of suicide to be normalised amongst Malaysians. By opening the conversation about suicide, it gives more individuals the courage to speak out and ask for help. When it no longer becomes taboo to speak about it, the issue can be addressed appropriately.

"Talk openly about your feelings, reach out for help when you are emotionally struggling. Lend a listening ear when you know someone is in distress or feeling suicidal. Do not judge or belittle those who are experiencing mental health issues. Instead, empathise and encourage them to seek professional help (if they haven't)," Lim advised.

Lim actively involves himself in providing talks touching on the topic of suicide and its prevention to create visibility on the issue.

Image via Malaysiakini

Despite the struggles that come with the job, Lim believes that by volunteering at the organisation, not only will more people receive help, but volunteers can also learn something from the experience

When asked if he would encourage Malaysians to come volunteer at the organisation, Lim gave a big, fat YES, as he believes that when one volunteers for a cause like this, there is always something people can learn from the experience, thus benefitting their own lives too.

"As volunteers, we learn skills that make us better listeners, which in turn helps strengthen our relationships with others," Lim said.

He fondly recalled how much he had learnt from the volunteers he has worked with and described the Befrienders KL team as a close-knit family and his close confidants.

Lim shared his vision for improving the mental health situation in Malaysia, wishing that more individuals would reach out for help as there are people who are willing to lend a hand.

With this, he invites Malaysians to join Befrienders KL as volunteers to make a positive impact on the lives of others, as well as themselves.

Lim posing for a photograph with other fellow advocates who want to bring an end to the stigma surrounding suicide.

Image via Kenny Lim (Provided to SAYS)

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

If you or anyone you know is lonely, distressed, or having negative thoughts, please call these Malaysian hotlines:

1. BEFRIENDERS KL
24-hour
Contact: +603-76272929
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook | Twitter

2. TALIAN KASIH
24-hour
Contact: 15999
WhatsApp: +6019-2615999
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook

3. BUDDY BEAR CHILDLINE
Daily (12pm - 12am)
Contact: 1800-18-2327
Email: [email protected]
Facebook | Instagram

For a more thorough directory of resources, head over to the websites of Malaysian Mental Health Association or MINDAKAMI.

All this month, SAYS will be featuring inspiring stories of extraordinary Malaysian changemakers in collaboration with Wiki Impact

Wiki Impact is an online platform dedicated to the impact industry. They share stories and data on issues that matter, highlighting impact-driven organisations and changemakers on the ground. Categories include poverty alleviation, social justice, gender equality, healthcare and education for all, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, impact influencers, and more!

Find out more here.

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This social enterprise believes everyone deserves access to mental health services, no matter what income level they fall under:

Here are some affordable mental health services you can check out if you need the help:

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