SMU Changemakers: Nicholas Patrick, Mental Health Advocate and Founder of Ekho Academy

Whenever I had a depressive episode in the past it’s always hard to describe how it feels. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I’m completely drained of energy. Those negative self-talk, that feeling of helplessness and hopelessness it’s just my body is not reacting. Hi, I’m Nicholas. I started Ekho Academy. The challenge with depression is it’s hard to talk about because it’s hard to describe. It’s very easy to feel it and it’s very easy to suffer from it but to explain it in words, it’s almost like sometimes there’s no right vocabulary in the English language. What really made it worse was the fact that I didn’t take any action. I allowed it to continue throughout all those years. It culminated in my attempted suicide in 2011. And it was only after that that I decided to get professional help. Because I knew that I didn’t know how to solve it on my own. Ekho Academy now is really just to help people who are in the workplace deal with issues that might potentially affect their mental wellbeing. There are two ways we do that. The first one is just a regular podcast and the podcast is where we talk with influential people within the work environment and have them discuss challenges in the workplace and how they deal with it; in a hope that people can learn how to learn in terms of dealing with these challenges. The second one is something that we created. It’s almost a platform where organisations can use it as a way to help their employees understand what they are going through, in terms of the challenges that they face at the workplace. And a simple framework or a blueprint as to how they can overcome these challenges. Before you can even have these kind of conversations with people who are going through some form of mental health issues, it’s almost more important to understand where they are in that journey. Because some of them are just figuring out what their problem is. And so they might not be ready to get help. And it that’s the case then really the best solution is just to listen and to accelerate their journey towards understanding that getting help is the answer. I’ve learnt the two most important things when you’re going through some form of mental health issue or mental illness is acceptance and patience. Accepting that we have a problem. Accepting that it’s ok to have that problem regardless of what other people say. And third is to accept that sometimes the best way to solve that problem is to get help. Patience is really key here because every time you rush you make mistakes that you don’t need to be making. And because of that, inevitably, you slow down the process down. And from there, you’ll be able to understand what you would need to do to overcome that problem. Starting a new venture, even if it’s a passion project is exhausting, it’s difficult, and often times you know, you might wonder like is it worth the risk of resulting in burnout or potentially even going back into depression, right. Therein was a wonderful opportunity for me, at least, and that was to learn how to create a sustainable life for myself. So that, not only could I pursue my passion and what I believe is my purpose, but to also do it in a way that doesn’t affect my own mental wellbeing. The challenge for me, sometimes that I face, specifically, is if I’m monetising on people’s suffering. How I overcame it was, you know when, when you see your prototype actually affecting people in positive way, and you realise, ‘Ok, people really benefit from this.” Sometimes, I feel like I’m not smart enough to do it on my own. Right now, the challenge for me is to build that great team, to get to that space where we can help people in a sustainable way and build a good business from it. I would always say, ‘Dream big and start small.’ It’s always important to allow yourself that opportunity to think of things that you would never otherwise think you’d be capable of doing. And to know that somehow it’s possible to reach there because you don’t always have to do it alone. At the same time, start small. Always ask yourself what’s the easiest thing I can do to get me to that next step. Eventually, all these small steps will lead to your ultimately big dream. Dream big, start small, and eventually you’ll get there.

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