Introducing Albert Hidayat.
Albert is a young professional who started his career as a Consultant in one of the top three consulting companies in the world, McKinsey, before he becoming Product Manager in one of Indonesia’s unicorn companies, Tokopedia.
Before coming back to Indonesia, this graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) started experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression that led him to see a psychologist. It was then when he was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
KALM is glad to be able to have the opportunity to sit and chat about his career and mental health journey.
Hi Albert, thank you for your time and willingness to be interviewed. First of all, can you tell us a little bit of your career up to this point?
Albert: Hi KALM. Glad to be here as well. So I think I’m very lucky. My parents have always emphasized education even when I was very small. I studied in Singapore and then I had the chance to study in the US in UCLA. I think that was why I was able to get the opportunity to work for McKinsey, one of the top three consulting companies, and right now I am working for Tokopedia.
What has been your experience working for Tokopedia so far?
I think it has been pretty good. I feel like my colleagues are supportive enough. Every time I’m facing difficulty they will help me. On the other hand, if my colleagues are having some problems I would help them right away. In terms of its environment, I also think it is quite healthy because the competition is not too intense and I don’t feel there are any unhealthy politics in the office .
What about the challenges that you face in Tokopedia? What are they like?
In Tokopedia I think I do have to face a lot of challenges. Currently I am holding a role that is brand new for me. I have to move from someone who was used to hold the role of product and business management to someone who knows about technology design. But I think wherever we work there will be its own challenges – especially for someone with mental health problems. On top of that, the more senior your position is, the more pressure you will face.
Even if I no longer work as a professional like what I am doing right now, challenges will still come up. The point is we have to learn how to manage our mindset to be able to face those challenges. Not only in the workplace but also other aspects of our lives.
Is Tokopedia already aware enough about the importance of mental health?
I think where I work in Tokopedia the awareness has been growing consistently. We often invite psychologists and mental health professionals to talk about different topics such as work-life balance, stress management, etc. My Head Senior also like to take me to join different mental health events.
That’s great! What about you, Albert? How important do you think is mental health?
I think it is very important. Our body consists of mind and physical. I read a statistic somewhere that there are a lot of physical illnesses that comes from our mental condition. And the symptoms can be very similar if we caught the flu or sore throat. When we are mentally unhealthy our body can also feel heavy and achy.
What do you think of the condition of mental health in Indonesia?
I think it still needs a lot of improvement. This is because in Indonesia there’s that shame culture and fear. People who are struggling with mental health often are looked down on. SO I think there is a need for more facilities and support from everyone – government, schools, and others.
KALM knows that you experienced some mental health issues. Do you mind telling us a little bit about it, Albert?
Yes, so I am diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). At that time what I did most often was isolating myself. Like, staying on my bed not wanting to go out at all, that’s one. Second, this might be because I am controlling by nature and then because I become too over controlling, I will read a lot of psychology academic resources. But this made it worse. I can’t forget what I have read. I became more panicked and depressed. It was like a cycle.
But I can say that my mental health journey was made easy by the people around me. I am so thankful that my family, friends, and girlfriend are very supportive. Especially my girlfriend… Before we started our relationship I told her of my issues. She said she wanted to support and help me face those issues.
When I was still studying in the US and was going through my depressed and anxious period, I was thinking to stop and just go back to Indonesia. At that time, my father was willing to understand my condition and told me that he will support whatever my decision would be. He said that I can just go back to Indonesia and start over if I wanted to. Knowing I have my father’s support made me willing to be open about my issues with my friends from church – and they really helped me.
So support from people around us is very important, is it?
It is very, very important! Whether you can find that support or not can be the difference between whether someone will find help that he needs to learn healthy coping strategies or not.
What are healthy coping strategies? Can you elaborate?
I think healthy coping strategies will be different for each person. I think someone has to have a lot of coping strategy. Because there is a physical aspect of mental health because in our brains there are chemicals that can be helped with medications. On the emotional side if there are close friends, parents, and friends who are open it will helped.
Practically speaking, for example, we have to maintain our bodily health like having enough sleep, exercise, eat healthy, pray, and meditation. I also think it is very important to be able to accept who we are because the root of my anxiety and depression is because I cannot accept who I am.
Actually at what point you decided to do something about your mental health?
In the beginning I don’t know anything about mental health, especially depression or anxiety. I only felt that what’s wrong? How come I can’t sleep? Why I feel stressed and a lot of very intense thoughts. In one day I can experience a lot of thoughts like that and I felt that it might be better that I don’t live anymore.
When I felt like that, I knew that I needed some help. And I am very grateful that the US is a country that use psychologist, medications, counselling, etc. Is that the best circumstances of not? For me, because I don’t have any other choice, so I think it was the best for me.
For Albert to meet a psychologist, was it by your own initiative or is it by someone else’s suggestion?
There was someone who suggested it to me, but after that I look for it in my own school. Actually, there is a psychological, or psychiatric, clinic in the school itself. Actually I don’t know what’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. But I’ll take whatever kind of help I can get.
What is your experience seeing a psychologist like?
Ăctually the purpose of a psychologist is to help the patient or the depressed person to be his or her own psychologist. So I think the first time I met my psychologist I learnt a lot: framework, how to be grateful, how to accept myself, what to do when negative thoughts come. They can accept us, can help handle those negative thoughts, and they really helped me.
After a while they can also be a good friend as well. Now when I go to my psychologist I can talk about whatever even if I don’t have any problems.
What do you think people who go to a psychologist are like?
I think, they are people who need help. That’s why they go to a psychologist or a psychiatrist, right? But it is definitely not a negative thing. It’s actually a positive thing because we all need help at one point in our lives.
We also need to know what are the role of a psychologist and a psychiatrist. For the therapy to be successful, we need to want to help ourselves to face our problems. So that’s the purpose, so that we don’t feel hopeless when they do not, or cannot, do counseling.
So the point is we have to have the will?
Yes. The will to change and accept ourselves as we are. Change is also not quick but will come slow.
How about online counseling? Have you ever try it, Albert?
Yes, I have used it before.
What do you think about online counseling?
I think, why I wanted to try it, was because in terms of cost it is very affordable. And since I live in Jakarta, it is very difficult to go places. Online counseling helps. Especially with face-to-face counseling you can probably only do it once or twice a month. Whereas with online counseling I can text anytime I want. So I do believe there are benefits of using it, though it is still different with counseling in person.
So online counseling and face-to-face counseling each have their own roles.
If you have a friend with mental health problems that comes to you, what would you do?
I will listen to them. Try to ask them subtly what is going on with them. People usually will feel helped if there is someone who wants to listen and understand their problems. So not to advise but rather just to listen. If the problem is large and/or he is in a dangerous situation, there, that means I have to find help more proactively.
After that I will try to help them to find a counseling place. I will also ask them why they are experiencing these. Then I will ask follow up questions, what’s the worst that could happen, if in 10 years from now there still this kind of problem what will be the impact. So they will not just focus on right now but rather also the past and the future.
So Albert, what is your hope for for mental health in Indonesia?
Actually my foremost hope is so that there will be no more stigma where someone who has mental health problems means you are crazy.
I also hope for Indonesia, and Southeast Asia, to appreciate the profession of counselor, psychologist, and psychiatrist in society. I think there are minimum number of mental health care providers in Indonesia because people are not interested for it’s low wages, stigma from society, etc. That is the change that I hope can happen in Indonesia, if there are not enough providers in this field then we cannot help appropriately.
Lastly, what do you want to say to people who might be struggling with their mental health?
Hang in there! Don’t give up!
Try to tell your problems to one or two people you trust. This is very important. With just talking about it can often help solve the problem. Don’t be afraid to tell your story, there must be someone who cares about you out there. That is for certain.
Amazing! Thank you, Albert, for your time.