Monday, January 16, 2017

Patients with Mental Conditions need Clearance to Drive

Every single day, our roads are used by thousands of motorists and pedestrians from all walks of life, and in different age groups.  Due to aging issues, the elderly is the most vulnerable group in meeting with accidents, whether it is crossing the roads, climbing up escalators/overhead bridges or driving vehicles.
With e-bikes and E-scooters now being allowed on our busy roads, coupled with tipper trucks that do rush jobs to earn more money, driving on the roads means all road users have to stay alert all the time. You may be a motorist with excellent driving skills, but if the driver next to you or behind you is reckless, accidents can so easily take place. It has happened time and again and sadly, some have lost their lives in the cruelest way.
Driving is a complex skill that requires adequate information processing, sustained attention or vigilance, concentration, and a good memory of the roads and what was taught by driving instructors. Drivers must have control over impulse and risk-taking, and their judgment should be mature and unimpaired, with the ability to anticipate the actions of other road users.
Don’t be surprised that on our busy roads there are motorists who have mental health issues that are either not treated or given follow-up treatment.  With Singapore being such a stressful place, it is not surprising that there are people walking about or driving around with depression or other more serious mental disorders.  I still recall what Mr. Khaw Boon Wan once said during his tenure as Health Minister: “All of us have some mental health issues, the question is to what degree?”
I have read reports of males and even females going nude in public places that includes on buses and on our roads. No one in his/her right frame of mind will demean themselves in such a manner.  In some cases, it was discovered that they were grappling with some mental health issues.
At times those who resort to reckless driving may have mental health issues as they are not in the right frame of mind.  Moreover, if they are on medication, they could feel drowsy from the effects of the medications.  That in itself can pose a danger when they drive.
Those found guilty of causing the death of another person by driving a motor vehicle on a road recklessly, or at a speed or in a manner which is dangerous to the public shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years.
Now if such a driver is guilty of such an offense and who is found to be suffering from a mental disorder, there is bound to be further stigmatization of mental illness.  
So how can we make our roads safe and sound from those with mental health issues who drive?
To begin with, patients who are being treated for a mental disorder – mild or serious, either by a government or private psychiatrist has to declare if he/she drives a vehicle upon the first consultation but it has to be done subtly and professionally.    
Next up, to ensure the safety of such drivers as well as the other road users, it will be prudent to allow these drivers with such conditions to hold a ‘Restricted’ driving license, subject to medical review by a panel of psychiatrists or the treating psychiatrist at appropriate intervals. This restricted license will apply to most people who have a severe, but stable mental disorder.  Once the doctor/s give the all clear signal, the patient/s can be allowed to drive on our roads. As an added precaution, a driving re-test has to be carried out.
Finally, to ensure that such patients keep themselves in a good frame of mind, it is crucial for the hospital or clinics to make it a must for all to follow up on their treatment.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Improvements at Malaysian Immigration Check-points: By: Raymond Anthony Fernando

I always find it so appealing and inspiring to listen to Our Gentle Warrior giving her views on a whole range of topics. Indeed, Ivy Singh has some pretty good ideas up her sleeve, and I am glad that she welcomes views from her audience. Which is why I have written this article. 

A gusto lady who has the courage and conviction to speak her mind, Ivy, in my view, will be a good representative in Parliament – either as a full-time Member of Parliament or as a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament.   

Gentle Warrior in her video “Singapore -KL High-Speed Rail” gave some suggestions on how travel options to our neighbor can be made easier and it includes removing the causeway that was built by the British. She fervently believes that by doing away with the causeway, it will allow the waters to flow naturally again where we can build fish farms and make the coastline beautiful. She also feels that it is much easier for passengers to travel by ferry. These are some of her ideas that can draw the tourists’ dollar.

I agree with Ivy that having more fish farms is an idea that ought to be explored by the authorities. Why? Because it will help create more jobs for Singaporeans and we will not have to be heavily dependent on buying such fresh seafood from abroad. 

I also second her idea of beautifying our coastlines as it will not only be a great tourists’ attraction, but it will also allow for some nice recreation for our own citizens who need to relax in a more conducive environment, instead of being ‘choked’ by a ‘concreate jungle.’  Research has found that 'blue space' including sea, rivers, lakes and even urban water features can have a positive impact on the well-being of human beings. Undoubtedly, the calming effect of a walk by the river or along a beach. Victorian doctors used to prescribe the "sea air" as a cure for an assortment of ages and ailments.

A little background on the causeway:  After 4 years of construction, the Johore-Singapore Causeway was completed in 1923. This causeway was partially severed in 1942 during the Second World War, to prevent the Japanese army from invading Singapore. However, it was rebuilt once the Japanese had captured Singapore. During the 1964 race riots, the causeway had to be closed from 22 to 26 July 1964.

The Johore-Singapore Causeway is the first land link between Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. The second, called the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link, was completed in 1998.

Like Ivy, I too treasure the good ole’ days where life was more relaxed and flowed at a much slower pace. True to every sense of the word, neighbors must be good friends, but there is bound to friction once a while. That’s human nature.  Hiccups left unmanaged can so easily sour relationships. It happens everywhere, in neighborhoods, at the workplace and even in families. Thus, a give-and-take attitude must prevail at all times.

Bombing the causeway? That’s the $500 question!

In retrospect, Ivy’s suggestion of tearing down the causeway, may not be feasible or practical at this point in time for a number of reasons.

Firstly, leaders on both sides are aware of the sensitivity of removing the causeway. It was reported that the proposals on replacing the old causeway with a new bridge had resulted in a political rift between Singapore and Malaysia as far back as the early 2000s’. The Malaysian government envisioned that disagreement by Singapore to participate in the project would result in a crooked bridge above Malaysian waters with half the causeway remaining on the Singapore side. However, Singapore has hinted that it might agree to a bridge if it’s air force is allowed to use part of Johor's airspace. Malaysia refused the offer and negotiation are said to be still ongoing.

Secondly, to tear down the causeway is going to cost a lot of money as it could run into millions of dollars. Then there will also be much inconvenience during the removal of the causeway.

Who is going to bear the costs?  And how much will each side have to foot out?  If it is carried out, will some of the costs be borne through taxes which will be a financial burden on citizens on both sides?

Thirdly, huge sums of money will have to be invested in the upcoming Singapore -Malaysia Rail link.

To me, the crux of traveling to our neighbor is the perpetual delays at the Johore immigration check-points. Therein lies the root of the problem: Manpower shortage, especially doing peak periods.

I have spoken to a fair number of Malaysians who work here in Singapore, and they include those who drive our public buses, SMRT and SBS. Most of them can’t afford to rent a room or a flat in Singapore, so they travel every day to their homes in Johor and back to Singapore on their motorcycles in the wee hours of the morning or after 4pm, when their morning shift ends. They all echo the same concern: In the wee hours of the morning, 3 or 4am, the immigration clearance at Johor and Singapore is smooth, but from 4pm onwards, it takes at least 2 hours for immigration clearance at the Johore check-point.

The Malaysian government is mindful of the thousands of their citizens who travel to Singapore for work, and they include many of our bus drivers. In an effort to strengthen transport connectivity between Singapore and Johore, officials from both sides discussed the new automated system when they met in Singapore on Tuesday for the 12th Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee Meeting for Iskandar Malaysia.  This was described in The Straits Time report on March 8, 2016, “Malaysia to implement automated immigration clearance for motorcycles at JB checkpoints

Although no time frame has been set for its implementation, the automated system will have 100 M-BIKE lanes at the Causeway and 50 lanes at the Second Link for bikers and pillion riders to scan their passports making it much easier and convenient for motorcyclists entering and exiting Johore Bahru.

You would think that building a second link in Tuas would speed up immigration clearance at Johore. Think again. You’ll get stuck in the jam for as long as 2 solid hours.  On eve of public holidays or festive seasons, the situation is even worse. A friend of mine who drives up periodically to Johore and was frustrated in having to wait so long asked the immigration officer why there was such a long delay. The answer given by the immigration officer put him off: “Don’t you know, this is very common?”

I am told that there are 8 lanes at this check-point, but why are there only two lanes opened up during such busy periods?  

I cannot imagine the massive jam ups which will take place if the situation does not improve when the rail link from the two countries is built in 20206.

Perhaps, the PS21 program (Public Service in the 21st Century) ought to be introduced by our Head of our Civil Service to his counterpart in Malaysia and this can be done through the Malaysia-Singapore annual sports games.  In this well-developed program, public sector employees are encouraged to give suggestions and ideas both as individuals or in groups (Work Improvement Teams or WITS) in the civil service to improve services to the public – and they get rewards if their ideas are practical and workable.

If immigration clearance can improve, both sides will benefit tremendously not just in terms of dollars and cents, but also in renewing close ties with our neighbors and paving the way for new friendships to blossom.

Once the rail link between the two countries becomes economically viable, then perhaps Ivy’s suggestion of doing away with the causeway can be re-visited.




Thursday, January 5, 2017

A tribute to Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher: By Raymond Anthony Fernando

A ‘broken heart syndrome’ can have damaging health effects on those who lose those their loved ones.  According to Dr. Sunil Shah, who helped lead the research at St George’s, University of London, the devastation felt by a surviving partner can make them overlook their own health issues.


“There is evidence, from other studies, that the bereavement and grief lead to a range of adverse physiological responses including changes in blood clotting, blood pressure, stress hormone levels and heart rate control,” said Dr. Shah.


According to cardiologists, emotions such as sadness, anger, and fear can trigger the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and in access, this can temporarily ‘stun’ the heart muscle.


When you have grown to become so attached to a loved one, it can rip you apart and make you feel defeated when the person you cherish so much is suddenly taken away.  Undoubtedly, grief is a natural response to loss. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief will be.

From my own personal experience, this ‘broken heart syndrome’ is so true for when I lost my wife so suddenly, I sank into months of situational depression that led me to battle insomnia for a whole year.  It was only my faith in God that helped me survive this extremely painful period in my life which pushed me to seek help from a psychologist.


This ‘broken heart syndrome’ was clearly felt by Debbie Reynolds when she struggled to come to terms with the passing of her daughter.

84-year-old Debbie Reynolds died on Wednesday night, 28th December 2016, shortly after her daughter, Carrie Fisher suffered a fatal heart attack.


Both Reynolds and Fisher were extremely talented in their own ways. Though Fisher struggled for years with a bipolar disorder, the author of Postcards from the edge did not allow her condition to pull her down.  Instead, she educated the public about the condition as if she were on a mission – and went on to become a dynamic mental health advocate, earning the respect of millions all over the world.


Reynolds contributed so much to the entertainment industry both as a gifted actress and singer.   She was Hollywood’s royalty, leaving a long and glittery legacy in the cinema. Her talent shone brightly: She could dance, sing, act and stomp her way through decades with musical hits such as Tammy and the Bachelor and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, for which she scored an Oscar nomination.


Many world-famous singers like Jim Reeves, Engelbert Humperdinck have recorded the popular song Am I that easy to forget, but to me, the best rendition was done by Debbie Reynolds, a tune I listen to almost every day of the week.  I have every confidence that if copies of her song are reproduced, it will sell like hot cakes as Reynolds was everybody’s darling.    


In the words sung so beautiful by the late Nat King Cole’s smash hit Unforgettable, Debbie Reynolds, both you and your daughter Carrie Fisher will remain unforgettable and live in our hearts forever – not just for your creativity and talent, but for teaching us the virtue of giving love to one another I such an immaculate manner.  For the strong bond between mother and daughter are virtues which we can all learn from and emulate. Their passing certainly reminds us to stay closely knit as a family.


For those who grief, support from the community can play an important role in helping the bereaved cope with loneliness and despair so that they can ride out of the storm.


Often those who experience pain and suffering will be in a better position to show empathy to others in a similar condition.  One elderly lady who was singled out by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his 2017 New Year message for rendering support to those who grief is Mrs. Satyabhama Karunakaran who, after losing her husband through a heart attack, has gone on to undertake volunteer work in lending senior citizens some strength and a listening year as described in The Straits Time report Times (“PM Lee lauds everyday heroes in New Year message”, Sunday, January 1, 2017).


Yes, let’s embrace the virtue of kindness, and take the cue from what popular  TV host, comedian and actress Ellen DeGeneres advice when she ends her TV show: “Be kind to one another”.





Friday, December 30, 2016

Mental Illness Linked to High IQ, Creativity & Talent

Is there a link between mental illness and persons with high IQ, creativity, and talent?  From the many talented, creative and expressions, thoughts and ideas from a number of celebrities, singers, sportsmen, writers’, politicians and even some of our own Singaporeans, yes it does point to that.

More than 30 studies have linked higher intelligence to mental health disorders including major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders.

Affecting some 2.5 percent of the U.S. population, bipolar disorder or major depression alone, has touched many of our greatest achievers, including Vincent Van Gogh, Buzz Aldrin, Emily Dickinson, Ernest Hemingway, and Jackson Pollock – just to name a few.

Some of the celebrities that had to come to terms with mental disorders include TV host Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga, Jim Carrey, Brad Pitt and his ex-wife Angelina Jolie.

DeGeneres was reported to go into deep depression after her show on ABC got cancelled way back in 1998 while Lady Gaga revealed her difficulties in dealing with depression and how she eventually learned to overcome it.

Hollywood megastar Angelina Jolie slipped into a depression in 2008 after tragedy struck in her family while equally big movie star Pitt felt depressed early on in his acting career, and attributes a trip to Casablanca to helping him overcome his depression.

But the plus of facing all these adversities is that they all have the tenacity to bounce back and rebuild their lives.

Mental illness and high grades in education

Other research supporting a link between intelligence and mental health problems shows bipolar disorder may be four times as common among young adults who’d earned straight-As in school.

I am not surprised that the correlation between A grades and bipolar disorder was strongest among students excelling in music and language, supporting popular notions about writers and artists with regard to mental health.

Indeed, persons trying to cope with mental disorders are highly intelligent people and given the right opportunities without discrimination, they can soar to greater heights. They are perfectionists and will not accept slip-shop work.

A professional lady who is also very intelligent told me recently that my late wife, Doris who battled schizophrenia for 44 years was a smart and creative person.  That is so true as she not only produced 8 successful books but was so meticulous in whatever she did. In proofreading all my books, she could spot a missed comma a mile way.

The professional who knew I battled depression for some time in 1995, encouraged me to continue with my writing, speaking engagements and advocacy work as she told me I have the ability to express myself very clearly, can foresee problems coming on-stream and come up with constructive ideas that can make Singapore a better place to live in.

Take proactive measures to comfort and counsel students who fail or do not do that well in examinations

We have in our midst some brilliant students who study in some of our top schools and often peer or parental pressure pushes the students to overstretch themselves. But when they do not do as well as they expect, such as when they score 4 A’s instead of 5, the results can pull them down and they can get depressed, wrongly believing that they are ‘not good enough’.  

On the other extreme end, there are students who try very hard to score well in exams, but fail and when the results are made known, it pulls them down so badly that some turn to suicide as they believe that they cannot succeed in life.

In October 2016, a State Coroner’s inquiry revealed that after an 11-year-old boy failed his exams, he believed – in his troubled state of mind, that he had disappointed his parents. The student then jumped 17 floors from his bedroom window and died.    “11-year-old boy’s suicide due to exam and parental stress: State Coroner

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has to be proactive and come up with measures to prevent a recurrence of such tragedies.  We need thinkers in the civil service to tackle problems.   MOE needs to have a helicopter view of challenges which students will face when they fail to make the grade.

Here’s what I propose:

For a start, there is no need to highlight and publicize the high achievers to the whole school when the exam results are out, because those who fail or do not score as well as they expect to, will be demoralized when the successful ones outshine them.

The high achievers can be recognized privately in a separate meeting with the Principal.

The demand for school counselors will have to go up if we hope to help students cope with the education system which is of very high standards.

Next, given that the school will have the results known from MOE well in advanced, it is best to group those who have not passed the exams to be counselled and comforted by the Principal, teachers and counsellors with the key message that it is perfectly ok to fail as there will always be opportunities to excel with the support of the school.  Parents of these students can be included in these sessions which can be held fortnightly until the situation becomes stable.

Students who pass, but are disappointed that they did not do as well as they ought to, could also have similar separate sessions, with parents tagging along.





Wednesday, December 28, 2016

An appetite for kindness from Good Samaritans


Do check out my article on the above subject-,here on The Malayan Chronicles.


Even though I had to spend Christmas without the presence of my late wife for the third year running, I was not alone when a handful of Good Samaritans rallied around me and brought me for meals and presented me with gifts. They all made my Christmas so special, so meaningful.

Some of them read of my loneliness through my press articles and were deeply moved, while others felt it necessary to give from the heart, which is the true meaning of Christmas. They all fully understand that recreation is so important for those who are lonely.

There was Raymond Ong who treated me to a lovely lunch at the Singapore Recreation Club, while Lawrence Quek and his wife Grace Goh brought me for a pre-Christmas dinner at an upbeat restaurant in Somerset Road. Playing with their lovable kids was such fun as I adore children. Jolene and husband Aaron treated me to a pre-Christmas breakfast before they went on a holiday.

On Boxing Day, Michael Png and some of his friends brought pastries and sang Christmas carols in my home. My youngest brother Terrence makes it an annual tradition to give me some cash during the yuletide season.

At the opening of the new year in January, I can look forward to an invitation to have a meal of my choice at a café run by a European lady who recently became my friend on Facebook. Such Good Samaritans can so easily make Singapore achieve its goal of being a caring, gracious, compassionate and inclusive society.

Reaching out to the needy lifts the human spirit. Even though there will always be people who prey on individuals’ prosperity and kindness to get money through unethical means, it should not in any way discourage us from helping the needy. This was so well expressed by reader Miss Lee Kay Yan in her letter” (“Don’t let fear of scams stop us from helping others”, The Straits Times, Dec 24, 2016).

In opening our hearts, we need to distinguish between those who are in genuine need of financial assistance and those who seize the opportunity to make a quick buck. The less fortunate in our society should not feel ashamed to reveal their heart-wrenching stories and seek help as there will always be kind-hearted people who will be moved by those who live in the shadows of life.

The media has been doing an excellent job in raising awareness of the marginalised in our society, and through this medium, many are getting the help they so badly need – and that includes having a decent meal.

There are thousands of people all over the world who go through hardships and sufferings, yet accept it as part and parcel of life. Take for instance in the Philippines, where typhoons continue to damage homes and wreak havoc to the Filipinos leaving many of us to wonder how they were going to have a Merry Christmas (“Strong typhoon Nock-Ten is set to hit Philippines on Christmas Day”, The Straits Times, Dec 23, 2016) We can all do a little to give back to society – pay it forward, so to speak.

For my part, someday when the opportunity arises, I would love to go and teach English to children of poor families in the Philippines because having a good education is necessary to build a strong foundation in life.

The Buddhists believe that the greatest gift that can be given to humanity is when we share our true stories and give good advice and support to help others.



Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Supportive Bosses raise Productivity

Dear all,
Do find time to read my article – here on Happy TV.
Raymond Anthony Fernando

A lecturer who plays the violin was once asked by his students whether he found his job interesting and if he had any hobby.  He was giving a lecture on working life.  His reply was pleasantly received by his students –males and females.

“Playing the violin is my hobby and lecturing is my job,” replied the bearded professor with a big smile on his face.

There is a saying which goes like this: Work is so bad that they have to pay people to do it.  Quite true, right?  But work can be fun if both employers and their staff love what they are doing. Then, payment becomes the icing on the cake.  Ultimately, a manager’s success is directly related to how well he/she leads and connects with the staff under their charge.

Today’s work culture, unlike the early years, is far more stressful and with stiff competition and Singaporeans having to compete with foreigners for jobs, there is a tendency for workers to be anxious and at times back-biting colleagues to move up rapidly up the corporate ladder.

Employer-employee relations can be tricky and at times, subordinates who lose out on promotions can be de-motivated, what more with office politics not being uncommon, and some bosses regrettably tend to favor certain staff.  For as human beings, we all have our ‘little favorites’. 

But before we can secure strong boss-employee relations, it is just as important to have inculcated a healthy and cooperative working culture amongst ALL employees.  This is because many full-time employees spend most of their working hours with co-workers than they do with their spouses and families. As such, it is important to allow employees the opportunity to build quality relationships with their co-workers. This can be accomplished through the organization of informal get-togethers away from work, as well as by encouraging employee interaction.

During my employment with the local TV and Radio station, the management organized tea sessions at all departments.

That is why it is not advisable to engage in gossip at the workplace. Rather, as workers, we have to build a good rapport with our superiors. Once a healthy relationship develops between the manager and his /her staff, productivity goes up and the company benefits.

Healthy working relationships during our career can help retirees to secure job opportunities on a full-time or part-time basis.  I have benefited tremendously from my past relationships with my broadcasting colleagues in the 60s’, 70s’ and 80s’ and very uplifted that today, even at 66 years, I have writing opportunities in a media company to contribute to the literary culture here in Singapore.  For if anyone enjoys what they are doing, they can be very productive.  And I enjoy writing so much.




Sunday, December 25, 2016

Letter to The Sunday Times: Various ways to manage stress, anger

My letter to The Sunday Times is published today, Sunday 25th Dec 2016.

The number of road rage incidents in Singapore – 75 last year, 69 in 2014 and 90 in 2013 – is cause for concern (“Why are we so angry on the road?”; Dec 18).

It is important to bear in mind that when people are unable to manage their anger on the roads, it may spill over into their homes, resulting in destructive relationships.

Many people are bound to lose their cool at some point in time, especially in such a fast-paced society.

Bosses and supervisors have a role to play in ensuring that their staff are not overwhelmed by work stress, and should encourage employees to approach them or human resource staff when they are unable to cope.

It would be useful for companies to incorporate meditation sessions into their healthy lifestyle programmes.


Meditation is an excellent way to calm the mind and body. Breathing techniques can also help to relieve some of the stress.

Community centres should organise such programmes to reach out to those who are not able to attend such sessions at the workplace.

Time management is vital, for when we are late for anything, there is a tendency to lose our cool.

Drivers should listen to soothing music, such as jazz or classical tunes, to calm themselves, rather than loud or aggressive music.

Raymond Anthony Fernando