10 Questions You’ve Always Wanted To Ask A LGBT Counsellor

Find out the answers to common questions in our interview with Leow Yangfa – the executive director of Singapore’s only counselling centre for the LGBTQ community

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Dear Straight People,

We recently had a chat with Leow Yangfa, the executive director of Oogachaga – Singapore’s only community based counselling centre for the LGBTQ community.

Seeing as it’s not often we get to chat with a counsellor for the queer community, we decided to bombard him with 10 questions we’ve always wanted to ask an LGBT counsellor.

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1. What should I do when I suspect that my friend is suicidal? 

If you want to help, the first thing to do is stay calm, don’t panic. Take any suicidal thoughts, expressions and behaviours seriously.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Let your friend know you have noticed and you’re concerned.
  • Acknowledge their intense feelings of hopelessness, helplessness & worthlessness, don’t dismiss them.
  • Stay with their feelings and show them you care.
  • Check if your friend has any concrete plans to harm or kill themselves.
  • Do also check in with yourself from time to time to see how YOU are feeling.
  • You should also consider getting support for yourself as you’re helping someone who is suicidal.

You can offer to connect them to Samaritans of Singapore (SOS)  to speak to someone about their feelings; or direct them to Oogachaga if they identify as LGBTQ+.

2. How do I advise a friend to seek professional help without offending them?

Seeking professional help is not easy, and should be voluntary. If you think your friend may benefit from getting professional help, do find out what their views are about it first, before suggesting it to them.

Some people may feel more comfortable seeking help themselves by searching online; others may prefer to ask for recommendations. Some people also may need time to think about it before they feel ready to seek professional help.

3. Do you ever feel drained out from counselling so many people over the years?

Self care is a very important part of being a care-giver, especially for counsellors & social workers where we are expected to offer emotional support and work with people who may be experiencing trauma, crisis or other challenges in life.

As much as it can get overwhelming at times, we remind our counsellors to take care of themselves, and offer support for our counsellors too. Reinforcing self-care is our way of prevent burn-out and compassion fatigue.

4. Am I a bad friend if I feel annoyed by a friend confiding his or her troubles to me?

It can sometimes be really difficult to know how to provide support for a friend when they confide in you. If they are confiding in you, it probably means they trust you and cherish your support. Sometimes we just have to do what friends do – listen, advise, give suggestions, and listen some more.

However, if you feel your friend’s problems may be beyond your ability to resolve, you can always suggest they get in touch with us here at Oogachaga.

6. What’s something about your work most people would find surprising?

In our experience, many people think that LGBTQ+ individuals, couples and families face a very unique set of problems.

And while that is sometimes true, many also face issues that are common in all other communities, such as relationship difficulties and work issues.

7. What is the greatest reward in being a counsellor for the queer community?

Many of us find a sense of hope and satisfaction that we have created a safe space for the local queer community to reach out to us for support, and also to trust us with their issues and difficulties, and want to continue reaching out to work with us.

8. What is the greatest challenge in being a counsellor for the queer community?

Having limited resources available for supportive social services in Singapore’s queer community is a great challenge.

The needs of our local queer community are diverse, and would be best met by a number of well-resourced and queer-affirming organisations, providing a range of services and programmes.

9. Why is Oogachaga important for Singapore?

While there are several LGBTQ-affirming services in Singapore, we are the only ones that provide professional counselling specifically for the community.

OC is important because we often hear feedback from our clients saying that we provide a safe space for them, while at the same time, as an out and queer-affirming organization, we also put ourselves out in the public eye out to bring visibility to the issues that are important to our community.

10. How can I support Oogachaga?

You can support our work by telling others about our counselling services – be our eyes and ears in the community and refer people to us if  you think they may benefit from our help and support.

Additionally, as a community-based, non-profit organisation, we are always on the look out for donors and creative ways to raise funds to support us so that we can continue supporting Singapore’s LGBTQ+ community.

More information on our website: http://oogachaga.com/donation

Leow Yangfa PD

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