Dr Julie Goldstein
Psychologist, Therapist, Counsellor
1) Which are some of the most common, pressing issues faced by women in Asia, that Mothernist.com aims to address?
Mothernist aims to raise awareness of the complexity and multiplicity of roles of the modern woman and mother, and does so by providing a psychology and video platform for issues discussion and experience sharing that can help women to maximise their potential.
In common with other cultures, the modern Asian mother’s multiplicity of roles comprises a unique combination of elements such as environment, culture and life experiences. The very essence of this multiplicity is both beautiful and complex, and it is often the complex nature that can lead a mother to feel disjointed.
An Asian mother will typically transmit culture to her children and feel responsible for it. The modern Asian mother starts out with the values of Asian culture, such as filial piety, shame (as a method of reinforcing expectations and proper behaviour) and self-control (being modest and humble) and could find herself having to find a middle ground. I’ve explored this issue in further detail in my article, “Navigating issues Asian women face”.
More can be done to raise awareness about mental health and well-being, particularly here in Asia where seeking help through treatment or counseling carries social and cultural stigmas such as bringing shame to the family and of putting a mother’s needs first when she is the principle caregiver. A modern woman may further feel there are obstacles to seeking psychological help such as preconceived ideas of anticipated utility and risk, treatment fears, and also time and cost issues.
2) How do you intend to coax Asian women into opening up about the issues they are facing, while knowing that there is a certain stigma attached to issues involving, say, mental illness?
Mental illnesses vary but are more common than one might think. According to the World Health Organisation, one out of 10 people who suffers from a mental health issue never seeks treatment out of shame or lack of knowledge about the issue. In Singapore, increasing awareness of mental health issues is essential and Health Minister Dr Amy Khor has said that more could be done to foster closer collaborations between the social and health sectors:
Mothernist aims to tap into this yearning for better mental health support and well-being and raise awareness about online tools in a gentle non-invasive way that will encourage women rather than intimidate them. Mothernist is set up for modern women and the online tools we provide are in the form of short video clips, articles written by professionals, and access to online therapy and psychology forums as well as social media engagement. The key benefits that Mothernist offers in terms of online engagement with its readers are anonymity (as an option), convenience, time and cost-effectiveness, and the further option to choose from a range of online therapy services.
3) The contributors on Mothernist.com aren’t Asians. Do you plan to engage more Asian contributors?
The aim of our contributors so far has been to write articles for Mothernist that are relevant to the modern Asian woman. From 2014, we will be working with more Asian contributors who are professional psychologists and therapists. Important pre-requisites that Mothernist is looking for are an awareness of cultural differences and sensitivities and a support for online therapy. We are in contact with Asian Women’s Welfare Association (http://www.awwa.org.sg/) and are discussing ways in which social workers and mental health professionals could make use of the content on Mothernist.com, which they have found to be very informative.
4) What can women expect from chatting with counsellors or therapists via Mothernist.com? Would the portal be able to arrange face-to-face meetups for these ladies?
Mothernist is concerned with the issues that Asian women face and aims for its engagement with clients and users to be culturally sensitive. Mothernist promotes online therapy and has a link to a very well established online therapy platform, talktala.com. Online therapy has various benefits and research shows that it works just as well as face-to-face therapy, if not better in some cases. Also, online therapy has been shown to overcome barriers associated with stigma that could prevent clinical attendance and lack of commitment to therapy. The issue of stigma is immediately relevant to Mothernist and the community it caters for.
We would certainly look into the possibility of offering the option of face-to-face therapy for our online users. Alternatively, it could take the form of our starting a practice to complement the services of Mothernist. For now, however, we do not proactively suggest face-to-face counselling. The Mothernist user is at liberty to choose to request this, schedules and locations permitting.
5) If men could be trained to provide that ‘listening ear’ that is sometimes what ladies really need, would that reduce the need to speak with a therapist?
Mothernist is a platform for men as well as women; men can really benefit from our content, too! Our content could help men to understand their partners better and there have been comments from users that Mothernist has helped to initiate fruitful and meaningful conversations between women and their partners. It is really important to be able to embody the other person and think about another’s feelings, and this applies to both men and women.
Having said that, being burdened with feelings of resentment or shame often leads to a woman “clamming up” and keeping silent. I am of the opinion that if women are able to more effectively voice their issues, and perhaps carry less resentment or shame by voicing their concerns and feelings, then the couple relationship will improve. This will also have a positive impact on the family unit. Men have their own issues – for example, feelings of being left out from the bond they see developing between their partners and children – and these might be addressed on a different site in future.
6) What are some quick tips you have for women who have to juggle it all – work, family, expectations – and who find themselves unable to cope with the pressure?
The weight that people carry on their shoulders only gets heavier if time is not set aside to voice emotions and sit back to gain some clarity. Emotions will bubble over if they are not addressed and valued.
So, I would say: come find us on Mothernist, watch some videos, participate in our social media discussions, reach out for support in your immediate environment when things get tiresome and talk about it. Most importantly, take care of yourself.
Check out the videos and participate in discussions at http://www.mothernist.com/ :D