Tan Kee Yun
The New Paper
May 26, 2016
Local singer Ferlyn Wong struggled for years to come to terms with the fact that she had depression.
All the raw emotions the 24-year-old experienced will be reflected in a 10-minute short film.
Titled Left Behind, it was produced by her independent record label GIF Music, with support from the Institute of Mental Health.
Wong is best known as a former member of K-pop girl group SKarf, which has been inactive since 2013.
According to Wong, it was a no-brainer that her company, which she co-founded in November with two partners, would focus on depression for its first corporate social responsibility video project.
"Depression is a topic I can relate to as I suffered two bouts in real life," she told The New Paper in a phone interview last week.
"I think there is a kind of stigma in showbiz. It's, like, if you're an entertainer, you're supposed to be a role model and be happy all the time.
"But entertainers are human beings too. By doing the short film, I want to tell people that it's okay to admit to having depression and to stand up and seek help."
In Left Behind, which will be available on GIF Music's YouTube channel next month, Wong plays a college student who crumbles under the constant pressure to succeed.
She will also be seen playing a supporting villainous role in the local cosplay-themed movie Young & Fabulous, which opens here today.
Wong suffered her first bout of depression in 2012, the year SKarf, which included another Singaporean, Natasha Low, debuted in South Korea.
She recalled: "The lifestyle there was overwhelming and I took diet pills to lose weight. (But they) had side effects. After taking them, I had severe mood swings. One moment, I'd be happy and the next, I'd be crying for no reason.
"I started seeing things too, and I'd have suicidal thoughts every other day."
She added: "Back then, I wasn't even aware of the changes in my emotional state. It was my (fellow SKarf) members who told me that for four months, I was 'crazy and scary'."
SKarf's South Korean member JooA, 26, told TNP over e-mail: "After taking the pills for a prolonged period of time, Ferlyn started hallucinating.
"She would clean a spot on the wall continuously, insisting that it was very dirty when it was not.
"Also, she believed that drinking water made her fat. To see her suffering, it pained my heart."
Wong said her second wave of depression, which happened in February, was brought on by "the accumulation of stress and the betrayal of a good friend".
"I had insomnia and didn't sleep for consecutive nights. And I couldn't eat and had to force myself to eat a few mouthfuls of food a day," she said.
Her manager, Ms Ice Poh, said Wong "looked like the walking dead" then.
Wong was candid when asked what she thought was the root cause of her depression, saying: "Fear of failure, insecurities, the constant feeling of not being good enough, and that whatever I do will never be enough. The lack of confidence in my self-worth."
Acknowledging depression was the first step of Wong's recovery.
Seeking clinical treatment was the second step and Wong admitted she was initially unreceptive to professional help.
"In the beginning, I didn't want to seek (it) as I was embarrassed by myself for being so weak as a person," she said.
"I don't feel comfortable opening up to strangers. A part of me feared that they might leak information and that people might start spreading rumours about me without understanding the whole situation."
During Wong's second bout of depression, Ms Poh said Wong wanted only to stay in her room and it was with "much persuasion" that she slowly agreed to face her issues.
Wong said: "I hated myself for feeling that my life was meaningless, and that I wasn't deserving of any good things.
"I could hear people trying to help me, but it just couldn't register until I met a friend's friend, who had a worse experience.
"She shared her (recovery) journey with me and from that point on, I started to be more receptive to external help."
Wong has also been receiving weekly counselling at her church for about a month.
Ms Poh said: "Things are looking up. She is sleeping normally and she has regained her appetite."
Wong is "determined" to make her second bout of depression her last.
"The counselling sessions have been really helpful. I've come to recognise my self-worth and to accept the past, be it good or bad experiences, and using my experiences to help others," she said.
While her short film is fictional, it does parallel Wong's real life - the ending of Left Behind features Wong's character emerging from self-imposed isolation and finding the strength to tell a friend about her condition.
"I now believe that my life can be a testimony to others, to bring hope and positivity to society," said Wong.
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