Sunday, June 17, 2018

Perspectives: Staying ‘alive’ to the realities of suicidal depression and other mental disorders : A proposal to Gan Kim Yong ,Minister of Health



Within just a week, two high profile celebrities have lost their lives in a most cruel way.

First, it was fashion designer Kate spade who hung herself and left a suicide note to her teenage daughter. Then it was Anthony Bourdain, Celebrity Chef and CNN food critic who was found dead in a hotel room in France.

Kate Spade, 55 died in an apparent suicide on Tuesday June 5, 2018 while Anthony Bourdain 61, died also from suicide on Friday, June8, 2018. 

Both celebrities had hanged themselves.

I, like many others – worldwide are deepened saddened by these tragic incidents and thus it’s important to keep their loved ones in prayer during this difficult period.


But make no mistake about it – depression and suicide are silent killers.  So too are other mental disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia. Even though these issues are sensitive and delicate, we need to come alive on these matters by discussing it openly and rationally.

 

Some of the risks factors of suicide include:

♦ Loss of interest or pleasure

♦ Insomnia

♦ Decreased appetite

♦ Retardation, fatigue or agitation

♦ Feelings of worthlessness, guilt

♦ Impaired concentration, indecisiveness

♦ Financial distress

♦ Isolation

♦ Personal issues, such as marital problems

 

Relationship can be tricky and not everyone can manage break-ups as it is by no means easy to cope with.  For like grief, the emotional pain from failed relationships can be overwhelming.

 

The other important matter to note is that children and loved ones are in real danger of going through psychological issues as it can be traumatic for them to cope with loss.

 

In yet another horrific incident, the media had reported that a Frenchman had committed suicide at Mecca’s Grand Mosque on Saturday, June 9. There were no details released on the identity of the man, or why he threw himself off mosque roof in Islam's holiest city.

Was it suicide as reported by the press? Or was it a mental illness such as Bipolar that caused the death.

Patients with bipolar can believe that they can fly or do the impossible. It is part of the symptoms of the illness.

A case in point is how Blake LeVine, now aged 35 who as a child believed that he could fly. As a teenager, Blake would spend hours in the library frantically reading all that he could about how humans could take flight. His parents grew so concerned that he would attempt it by jumping off of one of New York City’s skyscrapers that they had him institutionalised. After being hospitalised several times, Blake was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

In another media report, this time by Channel NewsAsia,on June 14, “SCDF rescues woman walking on roof of overhead bridge in Yishun”, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers  had managed to rescue a woman walking on the roof of an overhead bridge.

The woman was brought to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and was arrested for attempted suicide.

Was this suicidal depression or was it a mental illness gone untreated?

We need to have a clear understanding of all types of mental disorders.

 

Family, friends, employers, religious groups and the media all have a part to play in helping depressed people overcome their struggles which can prevent suicide.  We can do this by showing empathy and concern to depressed people coupled with a listening ear; and by being in tune with the warning signs of depression.  We must never dismiss a cry for help as a sign of weakness or view the sufferer as being bothersome.

 

Certainly, suicide survivours can reinforce the message that taking one’s own life is not the solution as treatment is readily available and recovery is always possible.  These valuable sharing experiences can be carried out at schools, workplaces, religious places, community clubs and during talk shows on radio and television networks where these issues can be discussed candidly.

 

Listeners can call in with their questions and shared experiences. It will be good to also invite enlightened employers and marriage counsellors who can give guidance and directions on how to better manage challenges in life’s journey.

In addition, counselling, group therapy and supportive psychotherapy can give encouragement and support to anyone who finds life meaningless.

I should additionally add that there are stress management solutions that are available to provide anonymous education and support which we need to educate more people about.

Let us not wait till the situation gets out of hand and more tragedies take place –for one life lost is one life gone too many.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Opinion piece: Keep alive the realities of mental health issues and suicide, through survivours and talk shows: By Raymond Anthony Fernando



For a lady who was so successful in the fashion industry, it is so hard to believe that Kate Spade would have lost the will to live (“Designer Kate Spade suffered depression for years, husband says”, Channel NewsAsia, June, 7). 

I like many others – worldwide are deepened saddened by this tragic incident and it’s important to keep her family in prayer during this difficult period.


But make no mistake about it – depression and suicide are silent killers.  So too are other mental disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia. Even though these issues are sensitive and delicate, we need to come alive on these matters by discussing it openly and rationally.

 

Certainly, suicide survivours can reinforce the message that taking one’s own life is not the solution as treatment is readily available and recovery is always possible.  These valuable sharing experiences can be carried out at schools, workplaces, religious places and at the community clubs.  

 

Some of the risks factors of suicide include:

♦ Loss of interest or pleasure

♦ Insomnia

♦ Decreased appetite

♦ Retardation, fatigue or agitation

♦ Feelings of worthlessness, guilt

♦ Impaired concentration, indecisiveness

♦ Financial distress

♦ Isolation

♦ Personal iisues, such as marital problems

 

Relationship can be tricky and not everyone can manage break-ups as it is by no means easy to cope with.  For like grief, the emotional pain from failed relationships can be overwhelming. We must never dismiss a cry for help as a sign of weakness or view the sufferer as being bothersome.

 

Instead, family, friends, employers and religious groups all have a part to play in helping depressed people overcome their struggles which can prevent suicide.  We can do this by showing empathy and concern to depressed people coupled with a listening ear; and by being in tune with the warning signs of depression.

 

Radio and television networks can play a supporting role as well, by raising more awareness of mental health issues and suicide through regular talks shows where experts and suicide survivours can discuss these issues candidly.  Listeners can call in with their questions and shared experiences. It will be good to also invite enlightened employers and marriage counsellors who can give guidance and directions on how to better manage challenges in life’s journey.

 

In addition, counselling, group therapy and supportive psychotherapy can give encouragement and support to anyone who finds life meaningless.

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Inspiring & educational talks on mental illness By: Raymond Anthony Fernando




(a) Talk: Understanding Schizophrenia - a talk on a true-life experience


 

In this solid one-hour talk, I will cover my late wife’s 40-year battle with depression and Schizophrenia, the trials and tribulations of our courtship and marriage and her miraculous recovery that enabled her to become an author of 8 books- 4 of which are bestsellers. The talk will also provide an insightful peek into caring for a loved one stricken with mental illness.  I will also provide useful caregiver tips in managing loved ones with mental illnesses and what are the warning signs that people, including supervisors, caregivers, retirees, office colleagues, teachers, students, parents, employers, employees, volunteers and even a layman need to look out for in helping someone cope with Schizophrenia – said to be the most distressing mental disorder.

 

My talk also promotes the sanctity of marriage- caring for a spouse, “in sickness & in health.”

 

The fees I charge for this talk is $250.

 

( b ) Talk: Depression – Beat it, Defeat it

 

In this 45-minute talk, I will cite some of the causes of depression, provide useful tips on how to better manage depression and what are the warning signs that one must look out for in tackling depression.  This talk is also based on my own battle with depression for several years and how I overcame this illness and charted several new directions in life. Today, I am an author of 30 books.

 

The fees I charge for this talk is $250.

 

(c) Workshop: How to turn a life experience into a book.

 

Here, I will give an insight into how budding writers can come up with their first book. I will provide useful tips on the real world of self-publishing.

The fees I charge for this talk is $250.

 

(d) Seminar: The writer, the entrepreneur, the panther

 

A 45- minute talk in which I will provide 16 steps on how writers can market their books based on my own success story.

 

The fees I charge for this talk is $200.

Facilities required:


I require a LCD Projector, laptop that can screen my powerpoint slides onto a screen, windows media player with speakers to broadcast my montage (5.6 minute video), and a table to promote my * books and that of my wife (*if and when our books are available for sale) 


 


Portfolio of Raymond Anthony Fernando
Raymond Anthony Fernando is a motivational speaker, poet, author of 30 books, trainer, songwriter, freelance television actor, ghostwriter, media celebrity and a regular newspaper forum page writer.  He is a volunteer with Silver Ribbon Singapore and the Institute of Mental Health; and is Singapore’s leading advocate for the mentally ill.   The author of 30 books was married to Doris Lau whom he groomed to become an author of 8 books.  Raymond has written on a wide range of subjects through the media and in his books, and it includes real life stories, relationships, marriage, social issues, advocacy, ghost stories, humour, children’s stories, poems, creative suggestions and spiritual content. Raymond who was chosen as Model Caregiver 2007 and Mental Health Champion 2010 is born on Valentine’s Day.  He has contributed 31 years’ service in the public sector, has 15 years’ experience in public relations work and has received several awards and commendations from government organisations.  

 



 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Opinion piece: Bringing distressed people out of despair : By: Raymond Anthony Fernando



It is encouraging that the Catholic News (CN) through the wisdom of Father Roland Rotheiser has written candidly about the delicate subject of suicide (“On Suicide and despair”, CN, May 27, 2018).

Suicide, mental illness and death are often not talked about or discussed openly as they are viewed as taboo subjects. That has to change if we have a genuine desire to give distressed people a ray of hope and to value life.

The salient points raised by Father Rotheiser are very true in every sense of the word as many people view suicide not only as a sin, but a crime.

People are driven to suicide when society and the environment becomes negative, judgemental and uncaring towards their feelings. In such a scenario, they feel a sense of hopelessness and despair when human beings don’t care. And that is where some depressed people grappling with mental health issues often turn to pets that offer them that much-needed solace.

We all need someone or something to walk with us in life’s journey. We just can’t do it alone.

Whatever religion we practice, one virtue is abundantly clear: We have a loving Superior Being who cares for us all.  As Christians, we need the power of prayer to lift the human spirit when we are faced with big challenges in life.

Saving lives should not just be restricted to helping people with physical ailments, but for emotional healing as well. For example, while teaching people the techniques of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person who is in cardiac arrest, just as important, if not more important is how we can teach people the skill of emotional healing in helping someone trying to cope with despair and unworthiness. For positive words and deeds are crucial in helping the depressed cope better.

 

We need supportive employers and colleagues to rally around anyone who has hit rock bottom – and bring the person to get the much-needed help from the professionals.

 

Caregivers of the mentally ill are most vulnerable to suicide as they struggle every day of their lives to balance work and family life – simultaneously.

 

Often, the spoken and unspoken word can make a big difference in rescuing a distressed person or pushing him/her to end his/her life.  We need to build a kinder environment and a kinder society as the internet that makes it convenient for cyberbullying to ruin lives are very real.

 

On a personal note, my attempted suicide in 1995 was most certainly a wake-up call where I had initially given up on life and God. But the kindness, compassion and competence of the surgeon at NUH who saved my life made a huge difference in my life. The words he told me when I opened my eyes will always stay etched in my mind: “Mr Fernando, don’t do this again, because there is always a way out.”  

Indeed, there is always a way out – so let’s embrace hope – even amid uncertainties, big challenges and adversities.

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Timely to promote evangelisation and create a brand-new look for The Catholic News: An open proposal to Archbishop William Goh



“Character cannot be developed in peace and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

- Author Helen Keller -
By: Raymond Anthony Fernando

Given that Parish Priests have a heavy responsibility to serve the many needs of our parishioners, I welcome the decision for the Catholic News(CN) to come under the umbrella of the Archbishop’s Communication Office effective 1st July 2018.

CN is a useful platform for the 300,000 strong Catholics to understand the teachings of Christ as well as to get our brothers and sister in Christ to spread the love of God through the power of evangelism.

Jesus Christ is indeed good news and such good news needs to be told and retold.   As Catholics, we need to embrace evangelism and practice God’s love to everyone we meet.

Let’s spread the word of God through evangelism

There is no question that the world is filled with an appalling amount of evil and suffering.

Bitterness.  Anger.  Frustration.  Depression.  These are some of the emotions people who are going through suffering can display.

Many Christians who are plagued with chronic illnesses, financial difficulties, broken marriages or face mounting problems day in and day out have often asked the clergy these questions: “Why is God making me go through so much suffering?  I have done no wrong.  Why must bad things happen to good people?”

There is comfort in suffering because God can use our sufferings to teach us and make us better people.  Suffering can bring out the best in people, it can test their faith, and it can create the opportunity for them to grow spiritually, to change for the better, and to make a difference in the world.

Often it takes suffering to make us realise the brevity of life, and the importance of living for Christ.  God uses suffering to accomplish things in our lives that would otherwise never be achieved.

Even though we may be going through huge challenges in life or undergoing a great deal of suffering, we must always trust in God because He will always be there to lift us up – maybe not immediately, but in due course. 

This is why it is so important for the Neighbourhood Christian Communities (NCCS) to rally around the marginalised, the elderly lonely and the mentally ill and their caregivers.  NCCs play a vital role in uplifting those who are going through adversities.  NCCs too through supporting this group can also be in a position to evangelise by doing God’s work.

Although Christians appear to love evangelism, sadly, not many take it upon themselves to promote the scriptures from the Bible and God’s ever powerful love, as long as someone else is doing the evangelising.  To this end, it is imperative that as Catholics we need to start preaching the good news over and over again.  One way to do this is through the Catholic News where people – locals as well as foreigners can share their faith journeys.

I have always find it heart-warming to listen to the sermons by some of our Catholics Priests – among them, Father Ambrose Richards, Father Andrew Wong, Father Stephen Yim, Father Henry Siew and Father John Bosco Pereira – just to name a few.    As God’s shepherds, they can all certainly guide their ‘sheep’; encouraging them to become ‘Saints’.  

Less foreign articles, more local stories

I read CN every fortnight and have observed that more often than not, overseas articles get published. While such accounts are needed, CN needs to focus more on localised heartfelt stories, and perhaps give lay Catholics the opportunity to write local stories or opinion pieces, where youths and seniors can actively participate as contributors. If need be, pay them a token sum to encourage on-going participation to keep the publication very much alive. 

There are also many social issues facing Catholics here that includes breakdowns in marriages, addiction, family disputes and caregivers finding it a real struggle to care for loved ones with special needs.

As Christians, I fervently believe that we are called to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, to be a voice for the voiceless, the defenceless, and the most vulnerable in the society.

Government can also rally around all Singaporeans

Separately, it is encouraging that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has assured Singaporeans that the 4th generation leaders will make every effort to reach out to all Singaporeans as reported in Channel NewsAsia today, Friday 18th May 2018 (“4G leaders to engage Singaporeans in series of discussions to chart future together: Heng Swee Keat”).

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/4g-leaders-to-engage-singaporeans-in-series-of-discussions-to-10246704


Mr Heng is indeed a compassionate and caring minister, no airs about him and he makes the effort to understand the needs of all our people. He displays magnanimity towards caregivers of the mentally and this I found to be so true during my short discussion with him during the 1st Singapore conversation.


Poignant stories of resilience need to be unfolded

Getting back to the proposed brand-new look for the Catholic News.

There are also in our midst, Catholics who despite carrying a heavy cross have overcome adversities to come out stronger than ever as they place their full trust in the Lord. Indeed, having a faith makes it much easier to carry a cross.  The more poignant the stories are, the more Catholics will embrace the love of God.

Thus, it is timely with a new team in place on 1st July to have a Catholic newspaper for Catholics, by Catholics. 

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Public Suggestion: Government can lead by example by hiring older workers : An open proposal to newly appointed Labour Chief Ng Chee Meng



By: Raymond Anthony Fernando  

 

It is encouraging that the newly appointed Labour chief Ng Chee Meng has suggested forming a tripartite committee to provide better support for our ageing workforce, and to help mature workers to continue working if they choose to (“Ng Chee Meng pledges to address struggles of low-wage, mature and middle-aged workers, May 15, 2018”, MediaCorp’s Today newspaper).

 

I believe Chee Meng is a suitable choice as he does make the effort to reply, (once through his executive), when I put forward a useful suggestion to him during his stint at the Education ministry. Another minister who is touch with the ground is Heng Chee How who was at one time my mayor, a kind, humble and down-to-earth man.  That is how ministers and MPs can gain the trust and confidence in the electorate.   

 

Indeed, the mindset of employers has to be changed if we want to help older Singaporeans lead more meaningful and productive lives. 

 

When older Singaporeans are unemployed for long periods, for sure they will lose key social support that includes loss in income, little or no recreation and no friends to socialise with.   In the worse-case scenario, depression and serious health issues will surface for this group who are bound to feel isolated and uncared for.

 

Feedback from bosses and companies have revealed that there is a tendency for young graduates and those fresh on the job to job hop and show insufficient workplace enthusiasm and commitment towards their work.

 

Yet, this is not the case with many older Singaporeans and those with special needs, who have stayed loyal to the companies that they have worked for.  In addition, with their wealth of experience, older workers are well positioned to mentor the younger ones. By hiring older workers, they can instill in younger workers that deep sense of company loyalty that will reduce cost whenever staff turnover rate becomes a regular affair. 

 

To lead by example, I propose that the Public Service Division (PSD) starts hiring older Singaporeans. With PSD being the largest employer in Singapore, many displaced older Singaporean workers can once again find employment, purpose in life and contribute to the growth of our economy.

 

With Education Minister Ong Ye Kung inviting Singaporeans to step forward with ideas and suggestions, some of our experience older workers who have contributed in this area to their companies can nurture younger civil servants to embrace ‘bright’ and ‘bold’ ideas.

 

Not all graduates in the public sector have the ability to write well, to articulate their replies to the public is a friendly manner, and where there are policies put in place, know how to explain the rationale behind it.  To this end, hiring older retired Singaporeans who have excellent writing skills will be an assist to the government agencies they serve.

 

PM Lee spoke in Parliament on elitism today, Wednesday 16th May 2018 and I am glad he was surfaced this issue.  Thus, it is vital that all MPs and ministers make the effort to reply to members of the public who take time to drawn up constructive solutions to growing problems. Unfortunately, only a handful of political holders do so. This creates the impression that elitism is still very much alive.

 

We must encourage active citizenry – for it is PEOPLE and IDEAS that make a nation.

I’d like to add here that the provision of part-time work can be offered to allow older workers more flexibility in their work life as they age.

 

On all accounts, we should promote the idea to employers who may be skeptical of hiring seniors, that turning away older workers is a waste of human capital. In working towards achieving this goal, we will gain ground as employers realise that discrimination is wrong – not just for legal or moral reasons, but for business reasons as well.

 

Let’s have enlightened employers who can contribute to making Singapore an inclusive society – where no one is left behind,

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNNADO

 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Opinion piece: 4th Generation Prime Minister and ministers need to stay closely connected to the ground



A proposal to the Cabinet of the Singapore Government

I agree with many of the views expressed candidly by Editor-at large Han Fook Kwang in his insightful commentary (What qualities should a PM have; last Sunday, May 6, 2018, The Sunday Times).

Have empathy and compassion

Besides being totally honest and one who has much integrity, a good politician must exercise compassion and empathy to understand the hardships citizens are facing, and then take concreate measure to alleviate the suffering of those in need.  Singapore is blessed because we have corrupt-free leaders.

Stay constantly in touch with the ground

To be able to do this, the next Prime Minister and his team must stay closely connected to the ground, listen carefully to feedback where they are able to not only hear arguments from the people, but to learn what it will take on behalf of all parties involved, including  the various government agencies, to reach a consensus.

Be receptive to useful feedback, ideas and suggestions

This characteristic allows political leaders to recognise setbacks, view constructive criticism positively, and then be willing to accept useful suggestions that can benefit the nation. 

Improved teamwork across all ministries

In relation to Fook Kwang’s observation of each ministry taking care of its own tasks and priorities, it is very true that if every ministry works in silo, then many of the todays’ complex problems that have, and, are coming on-stream will not be resolved.  I remember clearly reading a press report on DPM Teo Chee Hean who is also currently the minister in charge of the civil service echoing what Fook Kwang has rightly pointed out.

To this end, I propose that a high-level Work Improvement Team (WIT) be formed at the Prime Minister’s office or Head of the Civil Service office whereby one or two executives from the 16 ministries together executives from PMO or the head of civil services’ office who can meet monthly or bi-monthly to identify and analyze issues faced by each ministry and then propose constructive solutions. 

With the proposed WIT in place, there will be far better teamwork across the public sector, and Singaporeans will benefit tremendously –bearing in mind that a united civil service paves the way for a united country.  
Promote active citizenry, keep the communication lines open and be humble in victory

Given that technology has enhanced our way of living and is here to stay, it is crucial for our leaders to respond positively to suggestions and feedback, even if it is just an interim reply.

The press must also play a supporting role and publish letters and opinions that are valued-added, and not be skeptical to put out the articles that can help in nation-building or reject them because they may be afraid of incurring the wrath of the authorities.

Active citizenry must be promoted at all levels and at all ages – within the civil service and outside the public sector.    We do not want a situation where active citizens step forward with constructive feedback and useful ideas and no one bothers to reply. Because when such a scenario develops, people will stop contributing.

We must encourage innovation and creativity, not stifle it.  To think creatively, we need to stop thinking, "What it is..." and instead think, "What could it be?"

The 4 G leaders must also heed ESM Goh Chok Tong’s wise words when at one of the press conferences after the PAP won decisively at one of the General Elections, he called on all elected MPs to remain humble in victory.

Today’s society is totally different from that of the early Singapore years.  People are now more vocal and if there is much unhappiness in the nation, we will become a divided country.

Emulate the good work of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew

As a pioneer citizen, I vividly remember how PAP’s founding father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) managed to rally the people of Singapore through his regular walkabouts in 1963, despite having to brave harsh weather conditions and poor conditions in rural areas that lacked in adequate street lighting, direct water and electricity supplies and other essential amenities.

 

The senior Lee did not limit his outreach to the people to just his Meet-The-People’s session to understand sentiments on the ground and to get the constituents to understand the various government policies but took it one step further by reaching out to the masses through his many walkabouts and that was why the people gave their unflagging support to the PAP.  

 

LKY also visited my former school in St Andrew’s at Potong Pasir during the 60s to show staunch support for education.

 

Another important factor that contributed to nation loyalty was that it was not only the old guard that brought about Singapore’s success story, but the hard work of the older generation of ordinary Singaporeans that made a BIG difference.


Leaders who possess this rare quality of always wanting to stay connected with the people inspire others – drawing on a level of trust which sparks the motivation to get others on board and get the job done.

 

Results of Malaysia General Elections bound to have a ripple effect on Singapore

 

Undoubtedly, the win which the opposition – led by former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sucessfully secured is bound to have a ripple effect on Singapore.   He is a visionary champion who managed through sheer determination and tenacity managed to get the Malaysians to make change with the long-term goal of improving the lives of the people.   As I read the comments on social media from netizens – both Malaysians and Singaporeans, it is abundantly clear that all of them are pleased with the results.

On all accounts BN's historic downfall in Malaysia after 60 years is a clear and timely signal for the PAP to reach out to the ground and ensure that they will do more to help our citizens.  When my house almost caught fire, I raised this matter to the whole cabinet – including my MP and Mayor, but sadly, none showed any concern whatsoever, and they are fully aware that I am a widower who live all alone.  Are not MPs elected to serve the people?  Must I live in fear all the time?

Given that Dr Mahathir has had several run-ins with Singapore leaders, it is crucial that Singapore’s next PM and the 4th generation leaders possess the dynamic charisma and diplomacy to ensure that bi-lateral relations continue to grow as many of the projects and investments like the rail system are costly.

 

At the end of the day, both our future leaders and the media must keep the communication lines open, encourage active citizenry and harness that drive to improve the lives of all our people – locals and foreigners alike so that everyone has ‘A Place in the Sun’.  For to do anything less is doing a big disservice to the country.

 

The choice is there, seize it!


Raymond Anthony Fernando