This International Women’s Day, Ms Siti Mariam and Ms Joanne Goh, Principal Therapists at Private Space, share their challenges as women working in the mental health field. They talk about their hopes for their clients and female mental health professionals.

  • Joanne Goh, Family & Couple Therapist – Seminar Tutor, Social Work, National University of Singapore
  • Siti Mariam, Principal & Art Therapist – Adjunct Tutor, Social Work, National University of Singapore

1. How did you two meet?

Joanne: We were classmates in National University of Singapore! We got closer while serving as committee members on the SingHealth Peer Support, working on doctors, nurses and allied staff’s well-being.
Siti: As we re-connected, we realised we shared many similar interests such as peer support and crisis work. We never look back since then.

2. What challenges have you faced as women working in mental health?

Siti: Rather than challenges, I felt that being a woman was very advantageous. We are naturally associated with being nurturing and supportive.

3. How was it dealing with doctors in hospitals (KKH and SGH) where you spent many years? Especially since there are more male doctors.

Joanne: KK Hospital was wonderfully inclusive. I did not encounter any gender-related challenges. Hmm… I guess working in a hospital dedicated to women and children has fostered an environment where the focus on womanhood and motherhood naturally promotes understanding n support.
Siti: When I entered the medical field, I was reminded on many occasions that we work with, and not for, the doctors and other healthcare professionals. That helped me see that we are on equal footing. In my experience, it was not our gender that mattered but our professionalism and competency that helped earn respect from our peers.

4. Any memorable experiences working with female clients?

Siti: When I recall some of these experiences, I am reminded of how strong women can be in the face of adversity. For some, it’s out of love. Sometimes it’s out of duty, and sometimes out of necessity because they just had to. Women, somehow, were more ready to push themselves for the sake of their loved ones.
Joanne: I share the same thoughts! I have been very blessed with countless enriching experiences working alongside female clients in their moments of tears and loss, and to witness their boundless joy as they see their children heal and thrive. All these reminds me of the profound strength n resilience within a woman’s spirit.

5. What are your hopes for women entering the mental health field, as well as for your female clients?

Joanne: I hope that the strength and resilience within every woman can empower them to overcome challenges and embrace changes with grace and determination.
Siti: For female mental health workers, surround yourself with colleagues who accept you unconditionally, cheer you on, and genuinely want you to be your best version of yourself.
To our female clients, your feminity is to be celebrated and appreciated. Like a tree bending in the wind, our strength lies in our ability to be soft and firm, loud and quiet, assertive and caring.

Joanne Goh Siti Mariam
Principal Therapist
Private Space Medical