Friday, December 6, 2019

Open Public Suggestion to the Singapore Government: Mental health issues: Are you game?




It’s only fitting as I write this proposal which also makes up for one chapter in my new book, to accord my deepest appreciation to Associate Professor Chua Hong Choon whose dynamic leadership has placed the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) on the world map. Together with his Corporate Communications team, I was privileged to participate in the recent IMH event, the Together Against Stigma (TAS) conference which was held at Marian Bay Sands Singapore on early October 2019.   

During our growing up years, my mother would often share words of wisdom to all her 6 children.  One such precious gem she shared was about dreams.  Mom told us that when we have a dream that occurs anytime from past midnight to 5am, it is likely to become a reality.

After my wife passed away, I have been having lots of dreams and one dream that came to me 3 weeks ago was about pursuing my passion to make this a better world by useful suggestions and doing more for mental health. That has inspired and motivated me to write my next book, “Pursuing dreams, transforming lives” and to come up with yet another idea on how we can help to de-stigmatise mental illness – in a big and more effective way.

Wheel of fortune  

Wheel of Fortune (often known simply as Wheel) is an American television game show created by Merv Griffin that debuted in 1975. The show features a competition in which contestants solve word puzzles to win cash and prizes determined by spinning a giant carnival wheel.

In the main game, contestants have three options: spin the wheel and call a consonant, buy a vowel for $250, or solve the puzzle. Each consonant is worth the cash value of the wedge the wheel lands on. Contestants can continue spinning the wheel until they miss a letter or spin a bankrupt or lose a turn.

NAMI on Jeopardy

Jeopardy! is an American television game show created by Merv Griffin.  The show features a quiz competition in which contestants are presented with general knowledge clues in the form of answers, and must phrase their responses in the form of questions. Cash and prizes are offered.

The National Alliance for Mental illness (NAMI) of America has come up with an innovative idea to help de-stigmatise mental illness through the popular game show, “Jeopardy.” 

We can always emulate success stories and experiment with bold ideas. Being the BEST, we can be.

National broadcaster can rise to the occasion

To this end, I propose that MediaCorp TV and radio introduce a similar show or quiz programmes on mental illness as an effective method to de-stigmatise the illness for this is yet another way of fostering awareness on these issues.

Possible sponsors can include the big hermetical companies

 

A committee comprising the media giant and IMH along with her partners such as the Health Promotion Board and the National Council of Social Services can be formed to study the feasibility of producing these meaningful programmes for possible implementation.

Talks on mental illness must be on-going and intensified

Generally, people, especially Asians are wary of associating themselves with mental illness as it carries a nagging stigma. When I produced my novel, Loving A Schizophrenic”, I sold 50 copies to all the libraries in NLB.  For a few months, the books were not available as many people borrowed the books.  I met 2 persons who candidly shared with me that they have family members who have schizophrenia.   My gut feeling is that most if not all who borrowed the books could have someone with mental illness or they themselves are struggling to cope with the illness.

Besides collaborating with IMH to give talks on schizophrenia, I also go all over Singapore, including government agencies that includes, the Central Provident Fund Board, the National Environment Agency, the Police – sharing my experience as a caregiver to my wife on this brain condition. 

The same scenario develops. 

The audience dared not ask questions, but emailed me later or talked to me privately on how to better cope with the illness as they were worried sick that those in the audience will suspect that they have loved ones with mental illness.

Thus, if the game shows are held, caregivers and patients alike grappling with mental health illness can watch or listen to the recommended shows in the privacy of their homes – without being unfairly labelled or stigmatised.

I would further recommend that youths and students or mental health advocates and mental health care workers take part in the TV show.

It is understood that this proposal will entail extra work, but if it can benefit thousands of patients, caregivers and society at large, is it not worthwhile investing in?

I appreciate a reply from MOH. Thank you,.

Sincerely,

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Implement a slew of measures to support food delivery riders


I share the concerns of the riders who are trying to earn a decent living by delivering meals to customers (“E-scooter riders take grievances to meet-the-people sessions, others unsure what to do with devices” ; Nov 7).
 

With jobs hard to come by and livelihoods threatening, some solutions need to be put in place to help these riders whose tasks are physically demanding.  Last week as I was going up the lift to my flat, I met a Grabfood rider.  I asked him if he was doing part-time food delivery to earn additional money. He revealed that the IT business which he runs is not doing well and that is why he has to deliver meals.

 

There is always a solution to any problem if we pull together as active citizens to analyze the issue/s at hand and then brainstorm for workable and practical solutions.

 

I would thus like to propose a slew of measures that can resolve this burning issue.

 

To begin with, make it mandatory that all two-wheel PMD's are registered and licensed by 30 November 2019.

 

2.  Have all PMD operators registered and obtain a temporary license by 30 November 2019.

 

3. Make it compulsory for all PMD operators to attend a safety course by 31 January 2020 at which time they will receive a license to operate. Those who do not attend will have their temporary licenses and the PMD confiscated.


4. Require all PMD operators to obtain 3rd party insurance.

 

5.  I feel also that like handphones, the E-scooter charger should automatically be shut down after the bike is fully charged.

 

 6. Place a cap on the number of deliveries for the food E-riders so that they, in a bid to earn more money, will not be tempted to speed.

 

Lastly, strict enforcement should be carried out by the LTA and these include ensuring that there are clear visible licence plates with no modifications, illegal use of space or roads and reckless riding which has been known to cause accidents and deaths.  Demerit points, fines and jail sentences must be handed down to those who disobey traffic regulations.


These proposed measures will not only keep all of us in a safe environment, but also allow food delivery workers to support themselves as well as their families.
As I have taken pains to present this propsal, I would apprecaite it if the authorties could let me have a response.

Thank you.
 


RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO  

 


Fallen fruits need not be forbidden fruits: An open proposal to the Environment and MSF ministers


 


Under the regulations set out by the National Environment Agency (NEA), it is illegal to collect fallen fruits from forested areas or open fields.

 

In the Netherlands, rich people place apples from trees they grow and place it in plastic bags on their fences for the less well -off to pick up.  Fruits are a good source for vitamins and not everyone can afford it.

 

While there are concerns that the fruit may have expired, an unwritten cause could be put in place to protect the giver from being sued for food contamination. 

 

In Singapore there are some 1,000 Singaporeans who are homeless and they could do with some meals, including fruits.

 

Fallen fruits need not be forbidden fruits. Some flexibility could be exercised to help poorer citizens.

 

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned last night that his party will have to fight hard to win the next elections which is just around the corner.

 

The PAP can win the full support of the electorate if it is willing to help the needy – and therefore it is crucial for it to come up with suitable programmes to take care of the poor.

 

Some places that grow fruit trees like mangoes, coconuts and durians such as in condos can offer fruits to the poor.  Mangoes sliced and mixed with grounded chilies make a nice sambal to go with plain porridge. The poor are not choosy.

 

I would therefore propose that fruits grown in open places can be collected when they are ripe, perhaps by volunteers like the grassroots leaders or government agency staff and when approved for consumption bring it to nursing homes or to food distribution groups for the needy. It is far better to pass the fruits to the needy than to have it rot on the grounds.

 

I would appreciate a reply from the said ministries.

 

Thank you,

 

Sincerely,

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Provide refund for recycled bottles and cans Read Raymond’s letter to The Straits Times published on Apr 22, 2019:



My idea has been implemented.

Recycling is vital, as waste material has a negative impact on the environment, and undoubtedly reduces the risks of pollution, which can endanger lives.

When consumers purchase bottled or canned drinks or food items, biscuits and chocolates, they are paying for the container as well.

So why not have automated machines to refund the consumer the cost of the bottle or can whenever they return the used container? For example, if a can of Coke Zero costs $1.50, 10 cents can be refunded for a returned used can.

In some Western countries, like Germany and America, providing such refunds has encouraged citizens to recycle.

Recycling programmes can also help the needy. In Taiwan, for instance, Buddhist charity Tzu Chi Foundation provides free meals to the mentally ill and encourages them to collect used items such as bottles and cans and place them in allocated recycling bins.

Providing incentives to encourage people to recycle is good, as paying it forward helps to build a far better society.

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/provide-refund-for-recycled-bottles-and-cans

 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Education helped brilliant self-taught Malawian the ability to build a windmill from junk and brings power to his village




Challenge with all your might, think ‘out of the box’ and never stop learning. These positive traits have earned praises for Malawian teenager William Kamkwamba who has discovered that education is foundational!

Kamkwamba was a simple farmer who had not seen a computer nor certainly not many white people in his life. But that did not prevent him from pushing boundaries, reaching for the stars – to create his inventions that has made lives better for the people in his village. 

Yet his brilliant inventions were blacked out by the media. Why?   Many of us, awed by Kamkwamba’s creativity and sheer brilliance were stunned that the media had bot accorded due recognition to this young man.  

 

Bouquets to Ted Talks and Video for airing his story as more and more people who believe in Kamkwamba;s creations have started posting his story.

A little background into this young lad. 

Due to severe famine in 2001, Kamkwamba’s family were so poor that they could not afford to fork out the $80 in annual school fees   That resulted in the teen being forced to drop out of school a few months into his freshman year. For five years he was unable to go to school.

Starting at 14, rather than accept his fate, William started borrowing books from a small community lending library located at his former primary school. He borrowed an 8th-grade American textbook, “Using Energy: which depicted wind turbines on its cover.

He decided to build a windmill to power his family’s home and obviate the need for kerosene, which provided only smoky, flickering, distant and expensive light after dark.

First, he built a prototype using a radio motor, then his initial 5-meter windmill out of a broken bicycle, tractor fan blade, old shock absorber, and blue gum trees. After hooking the windmill to a car battery for storage, William was able to power four light bulbs and charge neighbors’ mobile phones. This system was even equipped with homemade light switches and a circuit breaker made from nails, wire, and magnets. The windmill was later extended to 12 meters to better catch the wind above the trees. A third windmill pumped greywater for irrigation.

It's puzzling that the media has chosen not to publish his story which can so easily inspire those who despite being poor adopt a never-say-die attitude and are prepared to study and beat the odds.

Due to its large outreach, the media can so easily sway people’s thinking and therefore it must highlight powerful stories that can transform lives.  Bear in mind that its IDEAS and PEOPLE that can make a far better world.  You don’t need a string of degrees to shine and what society needs are active citizens who are able to drum up ideas or solutions to solve social problems.

Ideas that can help change lives must never be thrown into the back burner

Like Kamkwamba, I too face challenges over the last year or two with the local mainstream media. 

Asa a social activist who is very much in touch with the ground and one who focusses on finding solutions to growing problems, I often come up with creative solutions that can improve the lives of my countrymen here in Singapore. 

At the end of September 2019, I wrote a letter to a local newspaper proposing a ride-on solution to the government grant of $200 a month to family caregivers.

Open Public Suggestion to the Singapore Government:  Caregiver leave can help family caregivers a great deal

 

The salient points raised by the writer Dr Kalyani Kirtikar Mehta are valid concerns which our caregivers face in helping their loved ones cope better (Policies must proactively support caregivers, September 28, 2019. The Straits Times).

Caregiving is taxing and a costly affair as most of these caregivers pay a heavy price: Physically, mentally and financially. 

As caregiving is often a 24-hour task, many caregivers have to end of giving up their full-time jobs.  

 

Therefore, I am sure our tireless caregivers will welcome the move by the Ministry of Health to provide the much-needed Home Caregiving Grant of $200.

 

An important task for caregivers is to bring their sick loved ones to hospital and clinics on a regular basis. If a caregiver is employed, he/she will have to apply for vacation leave to accompany their loved one for their medical appointment/s.

 

Therefore, to promote caregiving as a noble task, I urge the policy makers to consider providing a caregiver leave scheme of between 3 to 5 days. 

 

Dr Kalyani Kirtikar Mehta was spot on when she pointed out that if caregivers are supported by other family members, the community and the government, they are less likely to suffer burnout.

 

Unfortunately, as caregiving is daunting, most, if not all the time, the caregiver role is often not shared, leaving just one person to handle this unenviable task. It is even more taxing, daunting if any caregiver has to look after a loved one with mental disorders, and I am sure many of our Ministers and Members of Parliament know this only too well. Thus, the support mechanism for caregivers must be put solidly in place and be on-going.

 

If caregiver leave is implemented, I have every confidence that other family members will step forward and share in caregiving, thereby easing the load of a primary caregiver.

Idea rejected by the press, being considered by the Ministry of Health

Regrettably, my letter was not published even though it was a value -added suggestion. It is an irony that while the press did not see it fitting to publish my letter, when I wrote to the Health Minister at the Ministry of Health (MOH), The reply I received was encouraging. MOH said that they will assess and review my proposal. Now if the caregiver leave is implemented, wouldn’t thousands of our caregivers’ benefit?

High time our journalists are trained to see the merits of good ideas and not take the easy way out by throwing it into the back-burner.

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

 

 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Open Public Suggestion to the Singapore Government: Caregiver leave can help family caregivers a great deal


The salient points raised by the writer are valid concerns which our caregivers face in helping their loved ones cope better (Policies must proactively support caregivers, September 28, 2019. The Straits Times).

 

Caregiving is taxing and a costly affair as most of these caregivers pay a heavy price: Physically, mentally and financially. 

 

As caregiving is often a 24-hour task, many caregivers have to end of giving up their full-time jobs.  

 

Therefore, I am sure our tireless caregivers will welcome the move by the Ministry of Health to provide the much-needed Home Caregiving Grant of $200.

 

An important task for caregivers is to bring their sick loved ones to hospital and clinics on a regular basis. If a caregiver is employed, he/she will have to apply for vacation leave to accompany their loved one for their medical appointment/s.

 

Therefore, to promote caregiving as a noble task, I urge the policy makers to consider providing a caregiver leave scheme of between 3 to 5 days. 

 

Dr Kalyani Kirtikar Mehta was spot on when she pointed out that if caregivers are supported by other family members, the community and the government, they are less likely to suffer burnout.

 

Unfortunately, as caregiving is daunting, most, if not all the time, the caregiver role is often not shared, leaving just one person to handle this unenviable task. It is even more taxing, daunting if any caregiver has to look after a loved one with mental disorders, and I am sure many of our Ministers and Members of Parliament know this only too well. Thus, the support mechanism for caregivers must be put solidly in place and be ion-going.

 

If caregiver leave is implemented, I have every confidence that other family members will step forward and share in caregiving, thereby easing the load of a primary caregiver.

 

In closing, allow me to lead you to video production entitled ODE TO DORIS – Conqueror of Schizophrenia produced by a group of poly students who felt for both myself and my late wife, Doris Lau Siew Lang,

 


 
Sincerely,
Raymond Anthony Fernando


Reply from MOH


Dear Mr Raymond,

We refer to your email dated 4 October 2019 to the Ministry of Health.

Thank you for your feedback.

You may wish to know that your case is under assessment and we will require some time to review. We will respond in due course.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,
Jeffrey Lee
for Quality Service Manager
Ministry of Health, Singapore


19th October 2019
Dear Mr Raymond,

We refer to your email dated 4 October 2019 to the Ministry of Health.

Thank you for your suggestion.




The Government recognises the challenges of caregiving, and the Ministry of Health has thus developed a Caregiver Support Action Plan to strengthen support for senior caregiving. In addition to the Home Caregiving Grant that you have mentioned, the Action Plan also addresses support for caregivers in other areas like workplace support and respite care, based on feedback from caregivers.



We appreciate that there are merits to a caregiver leave scheme, but it may not be the best way to support caregivers. During our consultations with caregivers for the Action Plan last year, many caregivers saw Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) as being more sustainable than leave provisions to helping them meet both their work and caregiving commitments in the longer term. For example, working caregivers would like the flexibility to be able to take time-off to tend to their loved ones’ needs, which they often need a few hours, and not need a full day or even half a day leave. Other caregivers might require flexibility to work offsite on occasion while they take care of their loved ones.



Our Tripartite partners share the same view. A key consideration was that having more leave provisions could add cost to businesses, and inadvertently affecting the employability of those with caregiving responsibilities. Hence, a more sustainable approach for both employees and employers would be to support the adoption of FWAs.

As such, the Government has been working with tripartite partners to develop a workplace culture supportive of FWAs. The Work-Life Grant (WLG) funds each company up to $105,000 over two years when their employees adopt FWA. Under the Caregiver Support Action Plan, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has increased the budget for the WLG in July 2019 from $30M to $100M to allow more companies to benefit from the grant to sustain their employees’ adoption of FWAs. In addition, MOM has also put in place Tripartite Standards on FWAs and Unpaid Leave for Unexpected Care Needs, to increase companies’ adoption of workplace practices to help their employees better manage their work and family responsibilities.



To complement workplace measures, we are also enhancing our respite care services to better support caregivers in their caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers can use the centre-based respite care service if they need a few hours off (e.g. to take a break or attend to their personal matters), or nursing home respite care service for several days to a few weeks (e.g. if their Foreign Domestic Worker is away on home leave).


We have also started a Go Respite pilot since April 2019 to allow caregivers to activate these respite care options more quickly if they pre-enrol onto the pilot in advance. We will also be piloting a new night respite care service by end of this year to support caregivers of seniors with dementia who experience behavioural and sleep issues at night.


We will progressively implement the initiatives laid out in the Caregiver Support Action Plan and continue to review the support measures for our caregivers.



Thank you.



Yours sincerely,



Jeffrey Lee


for Quality Service Manager


Ministry of Health, Singapore






 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Schizophrenia: Raymond A Fernando’s shared his story on National TV 7 years ago


Dear Friends  
There has been lot of stigma surrounding mental illnesses and mental patients in Singapore. Spurred on by the love for his schizophrenic wife Doris, Raymond Fernando decided to become an advocate for the mentally ill. This is apart from having to care for Doris around the clock and providing financially for the both of them. Catch the final episode of Everyday Heroes as we chart this undying love.
It’s 5 years now since Doris has died, but I still miss her terribly. 
But she is safe NOW, in the arms of the Lord, free from prejudice, free from discrimination.
Doris has authored 8 books before she died, through my undying love for her. I have re-printed her very 1st book, a cookbook entitled “COOK WITH LOVE” which retails at $20. I thank God for bringing people to support our works, it helps me with my many needs NOW.
 
I am trying to cope with my own medical needs including osteoarthritis
Rally around me as I arrive at the last journey in my difficult life.
God Bless!
 
Sincerely,
Raymond Anthony Fernando

 
TV Show:  Everyday Heroes - EP9