Over-The-Rainbow Spotlight

I was telling a friend about my grand plans to start a slew of initiatives for youths. The more she listened to my ideas, the more she repeated.. there is one person who’s done something similar.. let me introduce him to you.

That was how I met Yen-Lu, founder of Over-The-Rainbow. Everything I had conceived, he has already executed them, over the past 11 years. What struck me was not only his authenticity, drive and how massively action oriented he is, but also his warm hospitality, making you feel comfortable right away.

I’m very aligned with his vision and am planning to volunteer with his organisation, and have been sharing about their Chatline and subsidized professional counselling for youths. I have also been invited to be on their Parenting & Education fireside chat happening on 2 March (Sat) at 11am.

When did you start this organisation?

We started our family foundation in 2010. Over-The-Rainbow was formally launched in Oct 2012. We are an approved IPC Charity. More details: https://overtherainbow.sg/about/

What motivated you to start this?

On October 22, 2009, we lost our son and only child to suicide. He was 26 years old. He was suffering from manic depression and lost his battle to the illness. It was a parent’s worst nightmare – and the darkest time of our lives. His suicide was also a wake up call, not just for us as parents, but for society as a whole. Our son was a very caring and compassionate person. He once told us, “wouldn’t it be nice if we can make a difference someone’s life.” His life, his passing and legacy became the inspiration and the genesis of our family foundation and Over-The-Rainbow (OTR) youth mental wellness initiative. 

Early on, we realized that perhaps, we are not alone – that he was not alone – that there are likely many other young people who suffer from depression or other forms of mental disorders. And we wanted to do something about it. For in our heart, we didn’t want what happened to us – the heartbreak of losing a child or a loved one to mental illness – to happen to any other parents, or any other human being. This was that first glimmer of light – it provided a path to help move us forward. So rather than focusing on our own grief, pain, sorrow, and suffering, we decided that we would instead focus our attention on others’ pain and suffering – and to try to alleviate that suffering. This was the beginning of our healing and transformation. And this was what our son would have wanted.

What age group / demographic do you serve?

We serve primarily youths (age 13-35) and parents / families, secondarily the community at large.

What services do you provide?

OTR programs & services: OTR Listens, Circle-of-ConneXion, Think x Rainbow Youth Counselling & Parental Support-Line, Wellbeing Champion, Rainbow Connection, etc. 

More details: https://overtherainbow.sg/

What is unique about your organisation?

We provide upstream services which includes prevention, preemption and early intervention. We pioneered the idea of holistic self care: an inside-out approach to mental healthcare. Which means putting on our own oxygen mask first – taking responsibility and ownership of our own wellbeing, from which we can start to take care of those around us. By working on ourselves first, we are then able to provide support to others around us. Community is very important: it takes a village. But the village has largely disappeared in modern society. We need to bring back the modern-day version of this village. We are doing this by creating the Circle of Care, an ecosystem that supports the individuals which includes youths, parents, teachers, etc.

Looking back, Over-The-Rainbow has been able to achieve so much as a small private nonprofit organisation—the support rendered to so many youths, their families and the community at large—only because of the heart and soul—and hard work of our people including our volunteers—the kind contributions from our partners, and the generosity of our donors. It takes a village. And it takes a vision.

OTR is the little engine that could – an engine with a soul. 

What was started from the ashes of a heart-shattering family tragedy has transformed into a thriving organization with a mission that turned into a movement to transform mental wellness for the 21st century.

More details on our flagship Wellbeing Champion and the concept of Circle-of-Care: https://otrlistens.net/wellbeing-champion

What is the most popular service?

OTR Listens. It is an anonymous Chatline, not a crisis hotline. For youths to have an outlet to vent or chat with someone who will listen to them with empathy.

Hours of operation: Weekdays: 4pm-12mn, Weekends: 12noon-12mn

More details: https://otrlistens.net/

What is a little known service?

Circle of ConneXion. It is a self-help group run by our volunteers to create a safe space for youths to come together and share their thoughts.

More details: https://otrlistens.net/circle-of-connexion

How can youths or families volunteer?

There are several areas people can volunteer for – community outreach, creatives & design, digital marketing, event planning & logistics, fundraising & sponsorship, IT, volunteer coordination and writing. We are also looking for volunteers for OTR Listens which is a safe and anonymous chat platform providing emotional support for youths. Volunteers go through training to empower them so that they have the capacity to help others.

What upcoming events are in the pipeline?

We just organized our first OTR Wellbeing Champion Charity Walk 2024 on 18 Feb – over 100 attended. We have our second Wellbeing Champion Charity Walk planned for August this year. We have Wellbeing Champion Festivals planned for March, June, December, and a big Wellbeing Champion Conference in late Sept /early Oct. We also have 3-4 major volunteer recruitment and training events coming up. In addition, we co-organize webinars around Personal Wellbeing and Parenting.

Upcoming events: https://otrlistens.net/events

If you have a magic wand, how would you half the suicide rate for young people?

I will turn everyone into a Wellbeing Champion 🙂