Befrienders KL Director Shares How He Opened His Heart & Ears To Those Crying Out For Help
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 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.
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.
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.
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
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook | Twitter
2. TALIAN KASIH
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook
3. BUDDY BEAR CHILDLINE
Daily (12pm - 12am)
Email: [email protected]
Facebook | Instagram
For a more thorough directory of resources, head over to the websites of Malaysian Mental Health Association or MINDAKAMI.
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