Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Raymond's letter to the New Paper: IMPROVING LIVES OF CITIZENS: Why not have an NMP with disabilities?

My letter to the New Paper is published in the New Paper today, Tuesday 29 December 2009, page 17. Check it out!

I refer to the report, “He always has time for us” (The New Paper on Sunday, 13 Dec).
Indeed, Mr Chiam has time for everyone. Even though I am not from his constituency, when I write to this opposition MP, he, his wife or his town council staff makes every effort to keep in touch with me.

Mr Chiam is very sympathetic to my wife's disabilities and my struggles as a sole caregiver. This is what makes for an outstanding MP.

I fully agree with the Prime Minister that the Government cannot solve all problems and that Singaporeans must play their part in nation-building.

But over the last year there has been so many reports of Singaporeans committing suicide and struggling with the stresses of life.

This is why I have been raising issues of the mentally ill, the elderly and the sick through the wonderful support of the newspapers who have walked alongside me for several years. Indeed, the media too have contributed to nation-building.

But what is equally important is for government agencies to respond when citizens put up suggestions and ideas that can help to improve the lives of all our people.

Though critics have called on Mr Chiam to retire because of his age and his stroke last year, this dynamic MP has proven that age or illness is no barrier to being a force to be reckoned with. Certainly more opposition MPs of Mr Chiam's calibre, who can provide alternative views, will improve the lives of all our citizens.

Recently I met an ambassador who told me me that a disabled person was elected into Parliament in a western country. And because of his political influence, he was able to secure better benefits for people struggling with disabilities.

If an NMP(Nominated Member of Parliament with disabilities can find his/her way into the Singapore Parliament, he/she may be able to further champion the plight of all those with disabilities, including mental illness. Surely, this is an idea for the Singapore Government to mull over.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Catholics brought the joy of Christmas to us

For my wife, Christmas is enjoyable when she is able to attend mass, sing the beautiful Christmas hymns and admire the decorations and flowers at our church. She is a simple person with simple needs.

The people who brought the joy of Christmas to us this year (December 2009) were kind-hearted Catholics like the newly wedded couple who treated us to a delicious dinner at a Chinese restaurant and a tour of Suntec City to see the bright Christmas lights and lovely decorations. They have pledged to spend Christmas every year with us, and it is a virtue that my wife and I will always look forward to and treasure.

Our church volunteers from the Church Of Holy Spirit took us for a seafood dinner and also a tour of Orchard Road to see the dazzling Christmas lights and decorations on 6th December. They also organised a fun-filled Christmas party and presented my wife and I with lovely gifts. The church choir came by our home on 23rd December and sang Christmas carols that brought sheer delight to my wife, who continues to struggle with five chronic illnesses, including schizophrenia and arthritis. The choir went the extra mile and presented my wife with a nice Christmas gift. The joys of Christmas was made possible by our Parish Priest, Reverend Father Andrew Wong who is able to feel the suffering of those who are in less than fortunate circumstances.

Two days before Christmas I bumped into Reverend Father John Bosco Pereria at Thomson Plaza. The first thing he asked me was how my wife and I were coping. I was deeply touched by Rev Fr John Bosco's care and concern. Undoubtedly, this is yet another Catholic who has shown compassion and kindness to us in the midst of the many uncertainties we face in our daily lives.

I am also encouraged that CARITAS has plans to initiate a new group for mental health over the next three years.

We are happy that with the continuing support of the Catholic community, we will no longer have a Silent night come 24th December every year.

I wish all our readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Raymond Anthony Fernando
Singapore 560601
27th December 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fine, Jail for failing to maintain windows:Raymond's letter to the New Paper:

Raymond's letter to the press is published today in the New Paper, Wed, 23 Dec 2009, page 21. Check it out!

I refer to the article, “More cases of falling windows” (The New Paper, 12 Dec ).

The move of HDB and the Building and Construction Authority to impose a fine of $10,000 or a one-year jail sentence, or both on homeowners who fail to maintain their windows is heavy handed.

It will cause more hardship to Singaporeans who may not be able to afford to replace their aliminium rivets and screws with stainless steel parts.

Unlike flat owners, offices have maintenance staff who can monitor the windows in buildings.

Many Singaporeans are still struggling to pay the mortgages on their HDB flats and for those earning below $1,500, the $10,000 fine can be as much as they spend on household expenses for a whole year.

The stiff jail sentence will also cause more anxiety to our citizens when many are already worried about their jobs. A build-up up anxiety can lead to depression and other mental disorders.

Instead of setting out a blanket rule to penalise homeowners, the HDB with the assistance of grassroots leaders and the MP for the area should visit homes to find out why flat owners have not switched to the recommended rivets and screws.

For needy Singaporeans, can't an interest-free affordable instalment plan be worked out to fix the stainless steel rivets and screws?

Rather than fine people for this and that, the Government should look into the welfare of the needy, the elderly and the sick, many of whom are either cramped in one-room flats or are dying alone.

I also found the report on the elderly who live in one-room flats, “ I may also die alone” (The New Paper, 13 Dec) terribly upsetting.

Surely our old folks who have planted their roots here deserve better support.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Friday, December 18, 2009

Killer litter: Raymond's letter to the Straits Times (ST)

My letter to the Straits Times on on the woman who displayed signs of bizzzare behaviour was published today, Friday 18th December 2009 in the ST Forum page, A30.

P.S. I will continue to wage an all out war againts those who discriminate and ill treat all people with mental illnesses, the sick and the elderly.

Thanks
Raymond Anthony Fernando

MY POINT

Killer litter:
“I refer to Tuesday's report, “Killer litter flowerpot injures guest at wedding”. People whose marriages break down are likely to fall into depression or become unstable. What I find disturbing is that although neighbours were aware that the 34-year-old woman was displaying signs of bizarre behaviour, no one bothered to get her help. The crowd that cheered and clapped as police led the woman away should feel ashamed of their behaviour. The mark of a civilised society is the way it treats its least privileged, the sick and the elderly.”
Raymond Anthony Fernando

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Letter to the New Paper: Taking care of mental patients

Letter to the New Paper: More help and support needed

My letter to the New Paper was published today, Thursday 17 December 2009, Page 21

I refer to the report, “I am confused about how my wife died” (The New Paper, 11 Dec).

The depressing events surrounding Madam Hoon Ai Choo's death and how her confused husband did not realise that she had died, once again demonstrate the total isolation and lack of support psychiatric patients and their caregivers continue to face in their lives.

It must be heartbreaking for Madam Hooi's husband, Mr Lua to come to terms with her tragic end. I hope that he gets all the support that he badly needs.

Over the last few months, there have been many cases of people losing the will to live.

On the 8 Dec, a depressed widow of the bridegroom found dead outside the Hilton Singapore hours after their wedding banquet was rushed to hospital with cuts to both her wrists. Madam Kerin Peh had attempted suicide because she could not cope with the loss of her husband.

I was also deeply saddened to read of the report in which a 50-year-old Indian diver had committed suicide after his wife left him and when he faced financial problems regarding payments to his flat.

I relate well to these cases because as a caregiver to my wife who has mental illness, I face huge roadblocks in providing a safe haven for her.

On many occasions I had wanted to buy an insurance policy for my wife, but it was rejected because even notable insurance companies do not allow coverage for psychiatric patients. Why?

I had approached the newly set-up Centre for Enabling Living (CEL) twice to ask them to source for funding for the books that my wife and I can write, but the management flatly refused to help to put up the appeal on our behalf.

What is the point of setting up an organisation that refuses to attend to the needs of patients with disabilities, especially when we both have to write for a living?

The nationwide survey on mental health will take one year. In the meantime, what measures are there in place to save and rebuild lives?

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mental health-care system needs major overhaul

Mental health advocate responds to the nationwide mental health survey: Mental health-care system needs major overhaul

Raymond Anthony Fernando's letter to the New Paper was published today, Wednesday 2 December 2009, Page 10.

I refer to the article on a nationwide mental health survey, “15,000 Singaporean adults to participate” (The New Paper, 25 Nov).

Due to the dearth of information on mental health, many people still believe that mental patients are a burden to society. Television dramas often portray mental patients as violent people who are trouble makers.

When we do not understand mental illness, we become biased against the sufferers.

With this survey, I hope that the Institute of Mental Health and the Government will make a concerted effort to provide better support for caregivers.

This is a group that is vulnerable into developing mental illness themselves because of the tremendous stress they face in caring for their loved ones.

In 2006, when my wife suffered her 11th relapse of schizophrenia, I was depressed and I could not get any support from any of the mental health providers.

One told me: “I'm sorry to hear that your wife has had a relapse. Please take care of yourself.”

A nurse manager suggested I see a psychiatrist and go back on medication for the depression that I struggled with in 1995. I refused to go back on medication because all I wanted was for someone to comfort me and walk me through that difficult period.

To tackle mental illness head on, a holistic approach, involving perspectives of doctors, patients and caregivers is needed because if you are a caregiver for the first time, you will be groping in the dark.

Even though I have wealth of experience in caring for my wife who has excelled in life through her literary skills and my encouragement, it has not been easy for me to change mindsets, even among mental health-care providers.

It is time to re-look the bridge to mental health care, for the system needs a major overhaul.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Friday, November 20, 2009

Raymond's next letter to the New Paper :PART-TIME MAIDS FOR CAREGIVERS

Home help services unsatisfactory

This letter was published in the New Paper on Friday 20 November 2009, page 24.

I am disappointed with the reply given by the Ministry of Manpower, “Impractical for maids to commute daily” (The New Paper, 19 Nov).

Caregivers who make every effort to look after their elderly sick should be commended and given all the support they need.

Mr David Soh Poh Huat's suggestion “Allow trained part-time caregivers” (The New Paper, 14 Nov) deserves full consideration.

It is easy to shoot down an idea, but it takes effort to study and implement bold , even radical ideas.

In the case of caring for the mentally ill, the journey is extremely tough, so much so that many give up and either leave their stricken ones to fend for themselves or place them in hospitals or homes.

Even though my wife has suffered horrifically from schizophrenia, depression and 4 other chronic illnesses, I have not chosen to give up on her for 35 years. But ours is an isolated and lonely journey.

Allowing part-time maids for caregivers will give us some respite, which is something that we desperately need, especially if we make every effort to stay loyal to our stricken ones.

Moreover with the rising cost of living in Singapore, part-time maids will allow family members to engage in some part-time work and help with household expenses.

I have tried the home help services and found them unsatisfactory.

I found the meals unpalatable and the cost of transport services for medical appointments were not easy to bear.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Thursday, November 19, 2009

MDJunction.com - People helping people

MDJunction.com - Center for Online Support Groups

MDJunction is home to more than 630 Online Support Groups each dedicated to one health challenge - a place where thousands of patients meet every day to discuss their feelings, questions and hopes with like minded friends.

It is a proven way to find information, comfort, support and friendship with people who are in your spot and understand you best.

I have joined the schizophrenia support group given my 35 years' experience in caring for my beloved wife, Doris. I find it useful and comforting knowing that we(my wife & I) are not alone in our journey .

Check out their nice website: http://www.mdjunction.com/

Sincerely,

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Raymond's letter to the Press: Elder Abuse: Caregivers need compassion and support

My letter to the New Paper was published today, Wednesday, 4th November 2009, page 21

I refer to the article, “Most abuse cases by victims' children” (The New Paper, 22 Oct).

I am glad that Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishan has raised the issue of elder abuse, as it is becoming a worrying trend here in Singapore.

Taking care of the mentally ill and those with multiple chronic illnesses is extremely stressful, and can bring out the best or the worse in people.

Family conflicts are bound to set in when relatives refuse to share in caregiving. I am trapped in this unfortunate circumstance.

As a sole caregiver to my wife who has schizophrenia, arthritis and three other chronic illnesses, I have suffered burnout countless times. My 34-year journey in caring for my wife all by myself is now affecting my health and I am experiencing severe nerve and eye problems.

It is a daily routine for me to prepare 41 tablets for my wife's multiple illnesses. I also have to do all the household chores. Who will see to my wife's needs if my health suffers?

The strain of bringing my wife for up to four medical appointments in a month is wearing me out. I have never had any sort of respite.

The harsh reality is that when you are looking after a family member with a serious mental disorder such as schizophrenia, you all all alone in this world.

I have to be with my wife 24 hours of the day because her arthritis condition puts her at risk of falling.

It is also very costly for me to look after her with no support.

In the UK I am told that people in our predicament get a lot of support. Not only is a caregiver allowance given, it seems the authorities even allow the caregivers to enjoy a two-week holiday whilst their sick loved ones are also put up at a holiday home.

I appeal to the Government to understand our plight and provide us with the support that we so badly need.

Caregivers do not need sympathy and pity. What they need is compassion and support.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Our Latest Book

The perfect gift for Christmas & the New Year:

The Glass Slippers and other stories for children is a delightful collection of short stories written for children and parents to read together. This book, which comes in full colour, has a collection of 10 adventure stories that will keep children on the edge of their seats. There is a local flavour that is blended in some of these tales. Each story is matched with a poem and a drawing that captures the theme of the story. Children between the ages of 5 to 12 will get all excited as they read about, “The Glass slippers”, “The girl who loved tomatoes”, “Celia meets Robin Hood”, “Send in the clown”, “Shipwrecked” and many more.

This book, jointly written by Raymond Anthony Fernando & his wife, Doris Lau Siew Lang costs $18 and makes a perfect gift for Christmas or the New Year! It is expected to be released in December 2009 or early 2010.

To order a copy/copies of this book, send your details to Raymond at his email address at rafcutie@singnet.com.sg

There will be a postage fee of $2 per book if the book is mailed to the reader. Don't wait , place your order early to avoid disappointment!



Here are two (2) illustrations of the many drawings that will appear in the book. Please note that these illustrations are copyrighted to the authors and their artist.




Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Senior citizens with mental illness

Raymond's letter to the press: : Provide a support network & revive the kampung spirit

I refer to the report, “Terrified women run away when she appears ” (The New Paper, 17 Oct).

Once again, an elderly citizen who lives in isolation and displays signs of bizarre behaviour has ended up in depressing circumstances.

The risk factors for depression and other mental illnesses in the elderly include living alone and having to struggle with bereavement. The old woman who caned women in shorts is probably in this predicament.

We need to reach out to the lonely elderly and those who have chronic illnesses as they are likely to fall into depression when they feel that nobody cares for them.

To enable our seniors to lead more meaningful lives, the Government could put in place a network that can rprovide ongoing support for this group of citizens.

For example, when an elderly citizen passes on, then the Registry of Births and Deaths can tie-up with a relevant government agency to check if any family member is left to live alone.

If this is the case, then the respective Member of Parliament (MP) and his grassroots leaders of his constituency should pay a home visit to this person and offer any assistance that is needed.

The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports should revive the Kampung spirit that was very much alive the '50s' and '60s'.

In those days, one can be assured of a helping hand and even the sharing of a bowl of rice, ikan bilis and sambal belachan.

The MPs and mayors should also make sporadic visits to our lonely elderly so that they feel cared for.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Raymond's letter to the press on noise pollution

Raymond's letter to the Press: Forced to move due to noise pollution
Why no control on noise levels?
My letter to the New Paper was published, today, Saturday 17 October 2009, Page 27.


RECENTLY, my wife and I had to leave our flat to find alternative accommodation.

This is because of the noise pollution coming simultaneously from the lift upgrading programme, the building of a child care centre on our void deck, the re-surfacing of the road in front of our block and the noise generated from the chanting of prayers and beating of drums during the Mooncake Festival that went on continuously for a week from morning to 11pm every night.

Why is all this allowed?

How can one have any peace of mind with all this noise pollution?

Patients with mental illness will relapse if they are hounded by excessive noise.

It happened to my wife in 2006.

Also, due to my wife's arthritis that leaves her mobility impaired, I have no choice but to take taxis to ferry her wherever she goes. The 35 per cent surcharge is eating holes in my pockets as I do not have a fulltime job.

I appeal to the authorities to show some compassion for those with diablities.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Saturday, October 3, 2009

SHE CAN WRITE A BOOK: Raymond's letter to the New Paper on Ris Low

This letter was published on Saturday 3 October 2009, Page 27

I refer to the report, “More legal woes for Ris?” (The New Paper, 30 Sept).

I am deeply saddened over the manner in which beauty queen Ris Low has been heavily criticised.

Although she has made mistakes in her life, Ris performed well during the run-up to the finals of the Miss Singapore World pageant.

For someone struggling with a bipolar condition or depression, Ris has, in my opinion, performed exceptionally well. She was determined to succeed and she was well behaved.

More importantly, Ris wanted to turn her life around. But she was condenmed so much that she was pressured to give up the crown.

What I find disturbing is this whole episode is that we seem to be breeding a society where people find it so hard to forgive.

The Government has been appealing to the public to give ex-prisoners a second chance in life. Yet, Ris Low was not given a chance when her conviction for a credit card fraud came to light.

Every one of us makes mistakes in life. Rather than put her down we should help Ris rebuild her life bearing in mind what Oprah Winfrey once said: “Lots of people want to ride with you in the Limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the Limo breaks down.”

For a start, I urge companies to sponsor Ris for diction and public speaking courses, so that she will be well positioned to make a sterling comeback.

I have struggled with depression for several years and my wife is recovering from schizophrenia.

But through the wonderful support of many kind-hearted people who walk alongside us, we have charted new directions in life and found our means of living through writing.

Someday, Ris, write your own novel and speak of your own struggles in life.

Equipped with good public speaking skills, you too will be able to chart new directions in life. Who knows, your book might just become a bestseller.

You may have lost the Miss Singapore crown, but you will always be a winner in my eyes.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Government and church need to provide better structural support for the mentally ill and their caregivers: Raymond's letter to the Media

This letter was published in advance in the Catholic News on Sunday 27th September 2009.

I am encouraged that the government is asking the church and the Catholic Welfare Services (CWS) to do more for the needy (“ Minister urges church to play bigger role in social service”, CN, Sept 13).

Undoubtedly, the mentally ill and their caregivers are in urgent need of support as they are often shunned, isolated and neglected because of the stigma that is associated with mental illness. We need to change mindsets as psychiatric patients are also human. They need love, understanding and support just like anyone else. Above all, they need to live in dignity.

For 15 years I gave up on the Catholic religion as I felt that God had abandoned me as I witnessed how my wife suffered horrifically from the dreaded schizophrenia and depression. Due to the lack of support, I too fell into depression. It was only through the compassion of my parish priest, Father Andrew Wong that brought me back to church. This priest, who continues to support us has transformed my whole life and I will always be indebted to him. Caregivers who do not have a faith will find it extremely difficult to care for a mentally ill family member.

The structural support for psychiatric patients and their caregivers is very weak and needs better support, for there are thousands out there who are suffering in silence. Let us reach out to them so that they can lead more meaningful lives. I am a volunteer with the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) where I often share my three decades of experience in loving and caring for my wife.

I am prepared to offer my services to the government and the church to change mindsets and enable the mentally ill and their family members not to give up on life. Together, we should be able to reclaim lives, save lives. For the road ahead for psychiatric patients and their caregivers will always be challenging, always uncertain.

People with mental illness just need one person to love them and with medication, support and understanding, they will recover. Someday, I hope that mental illness will be treated just like any physical illness.

Raymond Anthony Fernando
Singapore 560601

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Raymond's exciting 2nd novel- JUST RELEASED!

JUST RELEASED & SET TO BECOME ANOTHER BESTSELLER: The Face Behind The Front- Raymond's sequel to his bestseller, “Loving a Schizophrenic”

This true-life story is the continuing story of how Raymond Anthony Fernando is still coping to care and love his wife who has 5 chronic illnesses ( including schizophrenia and severe arthritis), through the love of Jesus. This book is also about how we can pick ourselves up and move on in life despite being confronted with huge challenges in life. Readers will enjoy reading this heartfelt story that will inspire them to stay resilient if and when they are faced with their own struggles in life. Join Raymond on his journey as he takes you through periods of desolation and celebration, triumph and betrayal, love and hate, faith and fate.


The book, which goes into 248 pages costs $20 has been released on 28th July 2009. Within 8 weeks, all copies of this first print run have been sold!

A reprint has be carried out due to popular demand.

If you wish to order this book, email Raymond at: rafcutie@singnet.com.sg

Don't wait. Order NOW!

Updated on 19th September 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Gone, too soon: A tribute to the late Michael Jackson, King of Pop

Dear Michael,

Your music brought joy to millions all over the world
And they include adults, teenagers and children – every boy and girl
When you're on stage, your unique slick dance moves
Has seen everyone put on their dancing shoes
Your music can unite people of all races
Chinese, Indians, Americans and others in different places
Michael, be assured that your music will live on and on
Even though from all of us, you are physically gone
As a young talented teen, I knew you could reach the sky
When I saw you sing along with your siblings as the Jackson 5
Everyone will continue to sing along to your hits
Like “Ben”, “I'll be there” and “Beat it”
Your untimely passing came as a shock
As the world mourns for you, Michael - The King of Pop
And I am deeply saddened to realize in 2009, June
Michael, you are gone... all too soon
Like Elvis Presley, you leave behind a legacy
Your music, your memory, so special
That even the blind can appreciate and can see
And as you are united with the Lord, Michael
The pain you endured will disappear and set your heart and mind free

Sincerely,
Raymond Anthony Fernando
@copyrightraymondfernando8/7/2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Raymond's letter to the press: Temasek Holdings sets up charity: Mentally ill & their caregivers need help

Temasek Holdings sets up charity:
Mentally ill & their caregivers need help

My letter was published in the New Paper on Tuesday 30 June 2009, Page 19.

I refer to the article, “Temasek to give $2m to charity programmes yearly” (The New Paper, 26 June).

I congratulate Temasek Holdings on its 35th anniversary and I am encouraged that it is committed to supporting the community in Singapore through its newly set up charity, Temasek Cares.

I would like to appeal to this organisation to help the mentally ill and their caregivers as this group of citizens have very little support.

Persons with mental illness are shunned, isolated and discriminated against because our society is still not ready to accept people with mental illness.

We must change this mentality if we are to become a first world country.

If Temasek Cares supports the mentally ill, it can be instrumental in changing mindsets.

Indeed, persons suffering from mental illness can be classified as underprivileged and less fortunate.

They desperately need help from the Government and other successful organsations.

Looking after a family member with mental illness is an extremely difficult task and many caregivers have to give up their full-time jobs to focus on taking care of their stricken ones who require round-the-clock supervision. I am in this predicament.

I appeal to Temasek Cares to help us in our extremely difficult journey, taking note of the wisdom of Winston Churchill when he said: “We make a living by what we get. But we make a life by what we give.”

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Friday, June 19, 2009

NURSING HOMES: Whatever happened to compassion?

This letter was published in the NEW PAPER on Friday 19 June 2009.

I refer to the article, “ One day's stay, one month's fee” (The New Paper,17 June).

I am disturbed about the plight of the elderly woman whose family was billed one month's fee for her one day stay at the Orange Valley Nursing Home.

People place their elderly sick relatives in homes because they don't have a choice.

The No 1 one priority for hospitals and homes should be to take care of the sick and lead them on the road to recovery.

This is what makes for a caring and compassionate society.

At a time when many Singaporeans are losing their jobs and finding it so hard to cope with rising costs, shouldn't the sick and their family members be shown more compassion?

With the sudden passing of Madam Tan Kim Hong, her family members should receive more compassion and support.

The family is in bereavement and they would need to fork out money for the funeral expenses.

So, please, let's learn to be more understanding.

I am also shocked to learn that the Our Lady of Lourdes Nursing Home does not refund residents the balance from the mandatory deposit if they chose to leave early.

Who makes these rules that puts residents at a clear disavantage?

All nursing homes in Singapore should only bill patients for the exact number of days that the patient stays in the homes.

A complete review and change of all policies on nursing homes should be undertaken so that our fast-ageing population are given better support and care.

Let us create a compassionate society where people learn to feel the suffering of those in need, taking the cue from what the Dalai Lama once said: “You are the people who are shaping a better world. One of the secrets of inner peace is practice of compassion.”

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Raymond's letter to the press: On curbing road rage on public transport

Hire wardens to ease tensions on crowded buses

This letter was published in the New Paper on Wednesday 10 June 2009.

I am totally disgusted to read of the alleged assault of 68-year-old Madam A Nyanamani by a young commuter, and the vulgarities that were hurled at her by his friend,(The New Paper, 6 June).

With crowd congestion on our roads and in public places, our environment is getting more and more stressful.

When people are unable to manage their anger and frustrations, innocent and helpless citizens become their victims.

Lately, there has been an increase in the number of crimes committed against the elderly.
The alleged physical and verbal attack on the helpless housewife clearly demonstrates that our senior citizens deserve better protection.

Stiffer penalties for crimes against the elderly will serve as a deterrent for those who want to bully our seniors.
Recently while travelling on the MRT during the peak hour rush, I saw its officers asking passengers to move to the centre of the car and advising those who take up seats for the needy to give it up to senior citizens, pregnant women and those who are weak.

This practice should be carried out on buses as well. Part-time bus wardens can be hired to help ease tensions on crowded buses during peak hours.

Such an initiative can also help to create jobs for retirees and those who have been retrenched.

As more people give up their cars and stop taking taxis, it is high time that our bus drivers are properly trained to handle tense situations that are likelty to occur.

It is imperative that our public transport operators take proactive measures to ensure that every citizen can enjoy a smooth and safe ride on our buses.

They should take the cue from what psychologist Arnold H Glasgow once said: “One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognise a problem before it becomes an emergency.”

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, June 8, 2009

Coming your way: My Latest Book - The Face Behind The Front

Sequel to the Bestseller "Loving A Schizophrenic"





Price: SGD 20.00

“The Face Behind The Front” is the sequeal to my bestseller, “Loving a schizophrenic” .

The book reveals that beneath the mask of a happy face is a hidden face – a face etched with years of emotional pain, hardship and depression.


“The face behind the front” also speaks of the many people that have walked into my life and they include my classmates, teachers, office colleagues, his friends and his church – people that showed one face on the outside and another on the inside.

If you are a caregiver for your loved ones, “The face behind the front” will inspire you to continue the difficult journey, strengthen your resolve and help you find meaning in a seemingly thankless task. This is a story of a caregiver’s emotional pain and how I overcome tremendous odds to bring hope to the mentally ill as well as chart new directions in my life.

In this book, I will also provide useful caregiver tips in managing persons suffering from mental illness.


This book is not just about caring for a loved one stricken with two major illnesses (schizophrenia and arthritis), but it is also about how we can pick ourselves up and move on in life despite being confronted with huge challenges in life.


I am sure you will enjoy reading this heartfelt story that will inspire you to stay resilient if and when you are faced with your own struggles in life. So, readers, join me on my journey as I take you through periods of desolation and celebration, triumph and betrayal, love and hate, faith and fate.


The book will on sale in about 2 months' time.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Author
Date: 8th June 2009.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

FIRST CLASS PUBLIC SERVICE -Show compassion, offer needy support

This letter was published in the New Paper on Thursday 4 June 2009.

The photograph showing a blind Madam Esther Maleka lying in bed and the New Paper report, “Poor, too poor for maid (The New Paper, 3 June) has moved me to tears.
I commend the magnanimous gesture of volunteer Madan Mohan Singh.
But, shouldn't public sector officers be empowered to bend rules under exceptional circustances?

The Ministry of Manpower could have provided the extra mile by tying up with the Ministry of National Development to see if the family could apply to purchase a flat.
This, I feel, would be providing first class public service in the 21st century.
People who are sick and in dire need of help need better support.
Looking after a sick person can be extremely exhausting and many a time you are all alone in this world. I know this because I am in the same predicament.
Getting home help services is not always the best solution for the sick who may uncomfortable with unfamiliar caregivers.
All of us will grow old and get sick one day, so let us learn to show more compassion and support for those who are in less than fortunate circumstances, bearing in mind what US author and philospher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Saturday, May 30, 2009

MEETINGS CANCELLED DUE TO HINI - Is there a need to be so paranoid?

This letter was published in the New Paper on Saturday 30 may 2009.

I have been following the developments of the Influenza A(H1NI ) closely and I feel that we should not allow such infections to take control of our lives.
We cannot afford to live in fear all our lives.

Experts have predicted that more new flu viruses are set to make their way into this globalised world.

If we are to be held for ransom by infections, our economy will suffer, our movements restricted and life will come to a virtual standstill.
Support groups that I am part of have stopped meetings because of the virus. Why? The problem is not within Singapore, it is from outside our country.

Is there a need to be so paranoid?

Like SARS, HINI was brought in from outside Singapore. The solution is to prevent diseases from entering Singapore. In it's long-term planning, I propose that the Government build quarantine hostels at Changi Airport where passengers who arrive from affected countries can be temporary housed here for a period of seven days.

Those infected with the virus can be immediately sent to Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Under close observation, the spread of infectious diseases can be contained.

When there is no outbreak, these hostels can be used for passengers who want to have a rest before and after their flights.

There is nothing that cannot be done to improve our lives, and as Winston Churchill once said, “The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

HELP FROM GOVERNMENT- MPs, leaders & CDCs must know needs


This letter was published in the NEW PAPER on Monday 18 May 2009.
I refer to the New Paper reports, “Angry at MP, boy slams chair” ( 6 May) and “More head or heart” (10 May).

Many Singaporeans are in dire need of assistance and it is not easy to secure help measures from the Government and other organisations.

My wife has a total of six illnesses, including schizophrenia, arthritis, diabetes, high cholesterol, incontinence and colon problems.

I am also battling diabetes, high cholesterol and arthritis.

Being the sole caregiver to my wife for more than three decades is no easy feat and I have suffered burnout so many times.

The support structure for caregivers in Singapore, especially the mentally ill is very lacking.

Why are service providers and organisations that are supposed to help caregivers like us, not giving us the support that we so desperately need? I have raised this issue a few times.

Because of severe arthritis, my wife's mobility is severely impaired and she is also at risks of falling.

I have gone all over Singapore trying to secure some affordable and tasty cooked meals for us, but I just cannot get it.

Several weeks ago, I sought the assistance of a home for some cooked meals, but my appeal was rejected by its manager who could not empathise with my plight.

To stay in touch with the ground, Members of Parliament, their grassroots leaders and the community development councils should make regular house visits to residents, especially those who are sick and in dire need of help.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Saturday, April 25, 2009

AWARE: WORK TOGETHER FOR SMOOTHER ROAD AHEAD

Reader Raymond Anthony Fernando responds to the AWARE SAGA.

This letter was published in the New paper on Saturday 25 April 2009.

The on-going row that has turned ugly between the old guard and the new exco is giving Aware a very bad image.

Shouting matches, microphone-snatching and emotional outbursts among Aware members from the old and new team in the presence of the media did not do the women's organisation any good.

If office politics that can lower productivity and affect staff morale, creeps into an organisation like Aware, then members will lose focus and not be able to carry on the tasks at hand successfully.

However, if the old guard and the new guard can come to a compromise, say with the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports playing mediator, then I am sure, the road ahead will be much smoother for Aware. Certainly such a turn-around will benefit all women in Singapore.

Building relations with media

To stay relevant, the new Aware exco must first of all build healthy relations with the media, who can play a crucial role in helping to raise awareness of issues that the new team intends to focus on.

Secondly, employers should encourage, rather than discourage their staff from doing voluntary work, especially if it helps in nation building.

If the new president, Ms Josie Lau is able to take Aware to greater heights, then I am sure that her employer will be more receptive to her heading the organisation.

I wish Ms Josie Lau and her team all the very best in their efforts to build a better life for all women in Singapore. Voluntary work and advocacy can sometimes be viewed as a seemingly thankless task, but somebody has got to have the courage and conviction to do it.

Those who feel discouraged or disheartened should take note of what I believe, Sir Winston Churchill once said: “ You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

RAYMOND'S LETTER TO THE PRESS: PLEASE DONATE TO HELP S'PORE'S MENTALLY ILL

My letter was published in the New Paper on Wednesday 15th April 2009, Page 27.

Recently the NTUC FairPrice Foundation gave $300,000 to the Archdiocesan Commission for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People whichl benefits foreign workers.

Such charitable acts helps to promote kindness and compassion. Indeed, the magnanimous gesture on the part of the FairPrice Foundation is commendable, but it should also be extended to reach out to Singaporeans who are in dire need of help.

It is estimated that about 135,000 people here suffer from depression. People can fall into depression if they lose their jobs and face financial problems. It is happening overseas and it is happening here.

In Singapore, funds are raised on a national level for many types of physical illnesses, but not for for mental illness.

Even though psychiatric patients and family members are struggling to cope, no one has found it in their hearts to spare a thought for these forgotten citizens.

I therefore urge the FairPrice Foundation to consider giving a similar donation to benefit psychiatric patients and their caregivers as their welfare also needs to be looked into.

Such a donation can help kick-start a drive to raise funds on a national level for this group of citizens who have been left out in the cold for far too long.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

HOPE MUST ALSO BE GIVEN TO THE MENTALLY ILL AND THEIR CAREGIVERS TOO

This letter was published in the Catholic News on Sunday April 12, 2009

I refer to the article, “Giving Hope – every Catholic's vocation” (CN, Mar 29).

Many of the stories highlighted in the new booklet, Giving Hope touched me. But as I read the booklet, I was deeply disappointed to note that there is not a single ministry or programme that provides concrete support for the mentally and their caregivers. Yet there are thousands out there who are shrouded in shame and suffering in silence.

Over the last two years suicide, anger and emotional behaviour among the locals have been increasing. Practically every week, I read of newspapers reports touching on mental patients. It paints a gloomy picture of those struggling with the “demons in their minds”. The March 27 New Paper report,“Don't let these ticking time bombs go off ” highlighted stories of neighbours being harassed by mental patients who live all alone.

With society still not ready to accept people with mental illness, psychiatric patients will be further isolated if quick remedial action is not taken to help them and their caregivers.

There are many Catholics nurses, doctors, social workers and counsellors who can provide the much-needed support for these marginalised citizen. Some of them work in the mental health industry. Yet nothing is being done to ease the plight of the mentally ill and their families. Why?

It is therefore crucial that all Catholic churches start a pastoral care ministry, if they have not already done so, and for Caritas to quickly set up a psychiatric ministry to look into the welfare of these people who have been left out in the cold for far too long.

Remember, “The mark of a civilized society is the way it treats its least privileged.” And the mentally ill are certainly the least privileged.

Raymond Anthony Fernando
Singapore 560601

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Letter to the Press: Her love's admirable; govt agencies should act


Letter to the press: Her love's admirable; govt agencies should act
My letter was published in the New Paper on Thursday 2 April 2009, Page 19
Reader RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO responds to these reports
I refer to the New Paper reports, “Wife visits him in prison daily for 9 months” ( 25 Mar).
And “Don't let these ticking time bombs go off ” (27 Mar).
Although she almost lost her life at the hands of her drunken and depressed husband, Mrs Pimchanok Porteous has not chosen to abandon him. This is the beauty of a woman who is able to love, forgive, live and let live.
Clearly Mrs Porteous is able to understands that her once loving husband's violent behaviour only came about following his battle with a major depressive disorder and chronic alcoholism.
Unfortunately many people who are highly stressed will turn to the bottle to drown their sorrows. But they must remember that substance abuse, such as consuming too much alcohol, will destroy lives as it can induce depression.
Mrs Porteous should not be disheartened by friends who scold or distance themselves from her. The healing power of love is therapeutic and can work wonders.
So, continue your journey with your husband, Mrs Porteous and stand by your man!
The second report shows that mental illnesses such as schizophrenia can be extremely difficult to manage.
Family members know this only too well, and those who no longer have the patience and perseverance will keep their distance or, worse abandon their stricken ones.
Generally, people suffering from mental illness are not violent. But one of the symptoms of schizophrenia is fear; and when fear overpowers them, patients who default on their medications may believe that people are trying to harm them, and thus become defensive.
There is a long waiting list for psychiatric patients to be admitted in some homes where residential care is offered. But although it is unhealthy to institutionalise psychiatric patients, what choice do these marginalised citizens have when they are isolated from family members, friends and the community?
It can be very frustrating for neighbours to be sent on a merry-go-round when they are faced with issues of the mentally ill.
Therefore, it will be prudent for all government agencies to work closely together and find quick solutions to these issues.
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Talks, workshops and seminars by Motivational speaker & best selling author Raymond Anthony Fernando

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

In this 1-hour, I will cover my wife’s 30-year battle with depression and Schizophrenia, the trials and tribulations of our courtship and 30-year marriage and her miraculous recovery through the grace of God. 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, 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 $150.

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

In this one-hour 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.

The fees I charge for this talk is $150.

(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 $150.

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

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 $150.

(e) Learning to distress from stress

In this 1-hout talk, I will explain how people can distress from the grinds and pressures of a face-paced society.

The fees I charge for this talk is $150.

PROFILE OF RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Raymond Anthony Fernando is a motivational speaker, poet, author, trainer, songwriter, freelance television actor and an advocate for the mentally ill. He is also a volunteer with the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and IMH. Raymond is also a caregiver to his wife, Doris who has recovered from schizophrenia and depression. Raymond has 33 years’ experience in caring for his wife.
Raymond has contributed 31 years in the public service, has 15 years experience in public relations work and has received several awards & commendations from government organizations. In 1998, he was commended by the Singapore Police Force for promoting road safety in the republic. Raymond also holds a “Certificate in Public Relations” from the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore (IPRS).

Raymond has attended formal training at the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and was awarded a “Certificate of Participation” for the “Family Link Program” conducted for 9 weeks from 19 January 2006 to 23 March 2006. He has also obtained a “ Certificate of Achievement” on 10th October 2005 from The Social Service Training Institute for a course on “Reclaiming lives: Helping people with persistent & serious mental illness”.
Note:
I am prepared to go to all organisations, schools, companies or churches that are keen to listen to my talks, seminars and workshops mentioned above.

To secure my services, just contact me on my email address at:
rafcutie@singnet.com.sg

Thank you & have a nice day!

Sincerely,

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Teacher who slept with underage student: Raymond’s letter to The NEW PAPER, Sat 27th Feb 2009

Husband’s support will help the healing process

I refer to the report, “ He will not divorce wife despite heartbreak” (The New Paper, 24 Feb).

Although it must have been heartbreaking for the husband of the jailed ex-teacher to discover that his wife had betrayed him, it is truly magnanimous and courageous on his part to forgive her. I commend him for his compassion.

Though it was wrong for the former teacher to engage in sex with the underage student, let us not be too critical. Both have suffered and are paying a heavy price.

Everyone makes mistakes, but if we are able to forgive those that have fallen down and give them a second chance, I am sure they will be able to move on in life.

A supportive environment can certainly help the ex-teacher a great deal as she comes to terms with her guilt and depression. Her husband and his mother have taken the first step to help in her healing.

But we must bear in mind there is no quick fix to overcoming depression and other types of mental illnesses, as it is a slow process.

With patience, perseverance and even prayer from family members, together with love, medication and counselling, I have every confidence that sufferers will recover.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Where there is love there is life.”

I wish both the former teacher and the 15-year student a speedy recovery as your family members stand by you in life’s journey.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ray's latest talk at the Police Academy



Raymond recently gave talks on Schizophrenia and Depression for 60 para counsellors of the Singapore Police Force and departments under the Home Affairs Ministry.


The talks were held from the 16th to the 18th of February at the old Police Academy.


He shared his life experiences in taking care of his wife, Doris for 33 years. Doris was stricken with schizophrenia at the tender age of 17.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I- Journalist -Raymond & his wife, Doris on new TV programme

Dear friends,

Channel NewsAsia has already started the second series of I-Journalist. In this programme, which is telecast every Monday night at 8.31pm on Channel NewsAsia, the citizen becomes the Journalist and leads the story. Basically it’s a citizens’ programme where issues facing Singaporeans can be aired.

In one of these episodes, my wife, Doris (who has schizophrenia) and I will be featured to talk on mental illness. Shooting of this programme was carried out at our home on Thursday 19th Feb 2009. In this programme, we talk about children – the ones we lost, and a neighbour’s child that brought so much love to us and helped in the healing of my wife’s mental illness and also took away my depression.

In this episode, I become the journalist and lead the story. My opening statement will mention that psychiatric patients need love, understanding and support- something, which I have always advocated for all along.

If all goes according to schedule and there are no last minute changes, this episode on mental illness will be aired on MONDAY 16th MARCH 2009 at 8.31pm on Channel NewsAsia.

Don’t miss it as we talk about the joy children bring and how they can help in the recovery of the mentally ill!

Sincerely,

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, February 16, 2009

Raymond’s letter in the NEW PAPER, Monday 16th Feb 2009.

Placing old folks in JB nursing homes not a viable option

I am deeply disappointed that Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan has suggested that elderly Singaporeans who fall sick could choose to live in nursing homes in Johor Bahru where costs are cheaper.

Although placing these elderly folks in JB nursing homes is an option open for Singaporeans, the signals that are being sent clearly shows a lack of compassion for our senior citizens.

It appears that when you are old and grey, nobody wants you, and this really saddens me.

Many senior citizens who suffer from chronic illnesses are isolated, and fall into depression.

History has clearly shown that a number of them lose the will to live when their children abandon them.

How is caregiving in Singapore to be taken to a higher level when our sick elderly are asked to live outside their own country - a place where they had toiled with their blood, sweat and tears?

What messages are we sending to the young at a time when the Government wants to promote volunteerism and a caring society?

Though it is a difficult task, caregiving should be promoted, as it is a noble job.

If millions of dollars are being spent to build casinos, why can’t some money be invested to build affordable nursing homes here in Singapore?

Moreover, the massive traffic jams at the causeway and worries about security in JB have to be taken into account.

Thus, institutionalising old folks in nursing homes in JB is not a viable option.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Government and community support need to de-stigmatise mental illness

I refer to the article in the Straits Times, “MPs raise concerns on proper care for the mentally ill (ST Feb 11).

I agree with Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan that if persons with mental illness are institutionalised and locked up in a mental asylum, they will not improve and will go downhill.

As correctly pointed out by Mr Khaw, many mental patients can recover if they are given a chance and are offered jobs. De-stigmatisation of mental illness requires a concerted effort by all government ministries and the community. The health ministry cannot do it alone. Therefore it is imperative that the clause asking job seekers to declare if he/she has mental illness be removed, because this mandatory declaration filtered down from the colonial era is in itself stigmatising. In the U.S. employers are not allowed to ask this question. Singapore must be a land of opportunity for every citizen, and that includes people who have recovered from mental illness.

Whilst the middle-income group could afford to buy riders to cover mental illness, the Ministry of Health (MOH) could implement medishield coverage for the lower-income group who do not have fulltime jobs, are poor and lack family support.

People who have lost their jobs are likely to fall into depression and some have already committed suicide. In some countries like Australia, trained psychiatric nurses manage helplines round the clock, and will come over to your house and talk you out of killing yourself. It has proven to be successful in Australia.

Caregivers of the mentally ill must be given the crucial structural support to help them travel an arduous journey.

To tackle mental illness head on, we must be prepared to discuss this subject openly, be proactive and be prepared to try out bold ideas. For as Henry Ford once said: Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing seems impossible.”



Raymond Anthony Fernando

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Through the years

A Valentine’s Day poem specially dedicated to my lovely wife, Doris Lau
Saturday 14th February 2009

My Dearest Doris,

We have been married for 33 years
When you are ill, I shed so many tears
At times like this, I have so many fears
When you are well again, my heart flutters
For you are my pride and joy,
A lady that stands out from all the others

No one can replace you in my heart
This virtue I had for you, right from the start
You are the light that shines so bright
You are like the stars that sparkle at night
You are as precious as the water that we drink
You are as pretty as the colour pink

I cannot afford to buy you roses all year round
But I can cheer you up and act like a clown
I cannot afford to buy you a diamond ring
But I can write you a song that I can sing
I cannot afford to buy you a car
But I can wish upon a shooting star

Tonight, we will have a homemade candlelight dinner for two
For a lovely wife like you, Doris come but few
Our celebration on this special day together is indeed unique
For being born on Valentine’s Day makes me as you lovingly put it,
An incurable romantic that has a one-of-a-kind technique
Happy Valentine’s Day Doris, my life long partner
If I have to live my life all over again,
I will still choose you,
And no other!

Your beloved hubby,

Raymond Anthony Fernando
ÓraymondfernandoFeb2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Reach out to S’poreans who don’t know there’s help

This is my 36th letter to the press advocating for more support for the mentally ill.
It was published in the NEW PAPER on Saturday 7th Feb 2009.

I refer to the article, “Request for financial help if you need it” (The New Paper, 3 Feb).

The call from Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, the Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), to Singaporeans to ask for financial assistance if they need it is heartening.

Many people are unaware of where they can get help. Some residents, including those with mental illness, are so poor that they can’t afford to buy newspapers and read about the help measures that are available.

There are psychiatric patients who cannot afford to buy proper clothes. When they wear the same clothes over and over again, they are labelled dirty.

Persons with mental illness face huge setbacks in their lives, and because of the stigma associated with this illness, cannot find jobs. The Government and the community must look into the welfare of these citizens.

MCYS should work with grassroots leaders, the Community Development Councils, the Institute of Mental Health, the Singapore Association for Mental Health and voluntary welfare organisations, and set up a database to provide much-needed help measures for these citizens.

Psychiatric patients or caregivers can also be invited to register with MCYS so that such services are brought to the doorstep of those most in need.

With access to the database, the residents’ committees can also reach out to these needy residents, and provide crucial financial and structural support.


RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Friday, January 30, 2009

THE HEALING LIGHT

I am deeply saddened of the news that Mr. Richard Stanley has been stricken with Leukemia.
This poem that I wrote on 29th January 2009, I hope will help in Mr. Richard Stanley’s recovery.

A poem specially dedicated to Mr. Richard Stanley, CEO of DBS Bank


Dear Mr. Richard Stanley,

You took on the job despite it being an enormous task
Your dedication and commitment will always be remembered
And in my heart, your courage will forever last
Words cannot express my sadness over your falling seriously ill
Don’t despair, Mr. Stanley, trust in GOD
And HE will give you the strength and the will
My wife and I will light a candle for you this weekend
We will pray for your full recovery as best as we can
We will pray for your family members as well
For pain and sadness must be written on their faces
This for sure, I can tell
Through your family’s love and support, miracles can take place
Then the happiness and joy will set upon all of them by God’s grace
My wife and I hope that you will have a full recovery
And when you’re back on your feet again, Mr. Stanley
Hey! Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Sincerely,

Raymond Anthony Fernando
Ócopyrightraymondfernando2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

MEASURES TO HELP PSYCHIATRIC PATIENTS & THEIR CAREGIVERS



Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone
deeply gives you courage.

- Lao Tzu –
Employment
1. First of all, the government should remove the clause on job application forms asking the applicant to declare if he/she has a history of mental illness, as this in itself is stigmatization. If the government takes the lead, then the private sector will do likewise. How do you expect recovered psychiatric patients to continue their treatment if they cannot find work? Work gives the mentally ill a sense of worthiness and helps a great deal in their recovery because “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop.”

Grants for patients/caregivers
2. Award grants and opportunities that facilitate patients and caregivers to work from home. For example if these citizens can write, sponsorship or funding for their books can enable them to chart new directions in life. If they can bake, provide them with some funding to open/rent a bakery. Then the government and the community, which could include churches, could provide these budding entrepreneurs platforms to market their goods and services.

Raise funds on a National Level for the mentally ill
3. The government should raise funds on a national level for the mentally ill and their caregivers. There are 50,000 civil servants in Singapore and if each one gives just $1 a month, you would have $50,000 per month. The government then matches dollar for dollar and the funds raised can help pay for the needs of the mentally ill and their caregivers. Once the public sector leads by example, the private sector will participate as well. This initiative forms part of community support that will eventually get our society to accept people with mental illness. If funds are raised for physical illnesses such as cancer, heart diseases, and kidney ailments and even AIDS, why can’t money be raised for psychiatric patients? I have raised this matter in the press, including the Catholic News that reaches out to more than 300,000 Catholics, but nothing has been done. Yet we are told to give money to victims of wars and disasters that hit people in other countries. What about the disasters that are taking place right in our own backyard when our citizens lose the will to live? And there have been so many of them that committed suicide. I am sure that if the government takes the lead in this fund raising effort, others will follow suit.

Structural support for caregivers
4. Provide structural support for caregivers and also a caregivers allowance because caregiving of the mentally ill is 24/7 and extremely taxing.

Cooked meal delivery services
5. Major supermarkets in Singapore should implement a cooked meal delivery service or Tingkat lunch/dinner services because with an ageing population, this service will be certainly be in demand. This can create jobs for the elderly and recovered psychiatric patients, as the operators would need kitchen hands, packers, customer service officers and delivery staff.

Good Neighbour Award
6. Introduce a “Good Neighbour Award” scheme that recognizes neighbours who are very supportive of psychiatric patients and their caregivers. Get tough on those who openly discriminate against the mentally ill. Send them for mandatory counselling.

Public Bus Services
7. Public bus companies should support government efforts by entering the grounds of IMH. The 400-metre distance from the present bus stop can seem like 4,000-metres when caregivers have to visit their loved ones daily in IMH. SBS trunk service 88 and feeder bus service 325 should extend their route to enter IMH and pick up passengers. This not only benefits patients and caregivers, but staff who work shifts at IMH. If we want to raise caregiving to a higher level, you must provide improved facilities.

Improvements in the C class wards at IMH
8. The C class wards in IMH are overcrowded- with about 30 patients to a ward. How do you expect patients to recover under such crowded, humid and noisy conditions? After all, the sick go to hospitals to rest, don’t they? Funding from the government will help IMH to renovate and build bigger wards in the C class so that patients can recover under better conditions.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Letter to the Press(NEW PAPER)- 22nd Jan 09 on Mental illness


CARE FOR AGED & MENTALLY ILL
Govt should build more homes and facilities

I refer to the report, “Woman’s body discovered due to foul smell, (The New Paper on Sunday, 18 Jan).

I am deeply troubled by the spate of suicides among the elderly and the lack of support for the mentally ill.

Last year alone, several people suffering from depression and other forms of mental illnesses committed suicide or ended up in jail.

The recent attack on MP Seng Han Thong by a mental patient has cast a deep dent in the efforts of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH), mental health providers and advocates to de-stigmatize mental illness in Singapore.

Although we claim to be a First World country, Third World practices are applied when it comes to mental health care. Why?

Last year it was suggested that supportive neighbours could help prevent suicide among the elderly suffering from depression.

Let’s get real!

This will never take place in Singapore so long as our society is not ready to accept people with mental illness.

All the tragedies that have taken place clearly demonstrate that neighbours will stay miles away from someone suffering from mental illness.

It is therefore timely for the Government to build halfway houses and more mental health homes such as the ones in Bukit Gombak and Pelangi village that are run by SAMH so that we can save and reclaim more lives.

After all, mental patients are also human beings, and like other citizens had also contributed to our economy in the past when they were not ill.

A gracious society is one that looks into the welfare of all its citizens and that must surely include the mentally ill and their caregivers.

Bear in mind what Mother Theresa once said: “ “The biggest disease in the world today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, January 19, 2009

BEACON OF LIGHT


When will the cries of the mentally ill be heard?

A Member of Parliament (MP), Seng Han Thong lies in hospital with 15% burns as his family reels from shock over the arson attack. In another hospital, his attacker, allegedly a 70-year-old former taxi driver awaits his fate in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). Sadly, both these Singaporeans will end up spending the Lunar New Year in hospitals.

Last year alone, many people with mental illness ended up in jail or lost their lives through tragic events. The elderly who are isolated fall into depression and are prone to suicide because they feel that nobody cares for them.

In another recent tragedy, a woman who had no friends and said to be mentally ill was founded dead in her two-room flat after neighbours detected a foul smell coming from her flat. (Sunday New Paper, 18th January 2009).

It was suggested that supportive neighbours could help prevent suicide amongst the elderly suffering from depression. This is not likely to take place in Singapore so long as our society is not ready to accept people with mental illness. All the tragedies that have taken place clearly demonstrate that neighbours will stay miles away from someone suffering from mental illness. A society that is blind and deaf to the suffering of the mentally ill will never be gracious.

I have raised so many issues of the mentally ill in the media, gone on national television and radio and yet the cries of the mentally ill and their caregivers continue to be neglected. I have repeatedly requested that funds be raised for the mentally ill and their caregivers, but no one is willing to take up this suggestion.

In India, a kind-hearted man has set up a halfway house for the mentally ill, and this is not a first world country. Ours is.

I will continue to be a “voice” for the mentally ill and their caregivers because although advocating is a seemingly thankless task, somebody has to feel the pain of this group of neglected citizens. And I take the cue from this famous quote:

“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you
pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”
-
Ralph Waldo Emerson –

Raymond Anthony Fernando
Singapore 560601


BEACON OF LIGHT
A poem in support of persons with mental illness & their caregivers

Together with the citizens of this beautiful land
I will walk with you hand in hand
I will travel near and far
To remove the mental illness stigma
There will be no mountains too high to climb
No rivers that is difficult to cross
I will guide you all the way
I will ensure that you’ll never be lost

Do not be afraid to let go
I care for you
This virtue I want you to know
Feel no more pain
Have no more fear
For soon, the sky will be clear

I will help you all cope
And bring forth to you, renewed hope
I will be the Beacon of Light
That will make your days sunny and bright

Raymond Anthony Fernando
Ócopyrightraymondfernando2005

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Warning signs of mental illness & what helps the mentally ill in their recovery

Based on my 33 years’ of caring for my wife who has recovered from schizophrenia and my own recovery from depression, I would like to share some of the warning signs of schizophrenia and depression, and useful points that can help in the recovery of the mentally ill. These are some very brief tips, but a detailed account of all these useful shared experienced will be outlined in my future book, “The Face Behind the Front.”

Do look out for this real-life experience book!

Warning signs – Schizophrenia
This what takes place when my wife falls into a relapse of schizophrenia.


1. Complains of severe headaches

2. Can’t sleep at night

3. Nervous & frightened

4. Restlessness

5. Deep in thought

6. Overwhelming sadness

7. Difficulty concentrating

8. Recalling unpleasant memories

9. Loss of appetite

10. People are talking about me!

11. The fear factor (becoming fearful of everything)

12. Becomes suspicious

13. Becomes argumentative

14. Believes that robbers are trying to break into the house

14. Has suicidal thoughts


Warning signs of depression

1. Excessive fatigue or disturbed sleep

2. Weight loss

3. Losing interest in everything

4. Difficulty concentrating

5. Failing memory

6. Diminishing sexual interest

7. Inability to experience pleasure, even in situations that are normally pleasurable

8. Feeling worthless- that life is meaningless

9. Having thoughts of suicide

Note: Any change, serious loss or stress- e.g a divorce, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or move to a new home can trigger depression, usually temporary, but sometimes requiring treatment.

CARING FOR THE MENTALLY ILL:
USEFUL POINTS FOR CAREGIVERS



Medicine- Type out a list of all the medications to be taken and display it.

Observe the 3Ps – Patience, Perseverance & Prayer

Medicine- Type out a list of all the medications to be taken and display it.

A big NO, NO to taking slimming bills

Don’t criticize, empathize & Exercise patience

Hugs to Grow

Instill confidence

Share simple skills with them, such as cooking, baking- get them involved

Bring music and laughter in their lives

Have sufficient rest and sleep

Remember important dates, such as birthday, anniversary etc

Take them for walks on the beach, let them listen to the waves

Keep the person free from seeing or reading negative things

Always watch out for warning signs- e.g. can’t sleep, taking too long to bathe, etc

Write letters to give assurance

Prayer and faith

Hide your own feelings when you are sad, as their recovery will be slow. Keep them free from worry.

Fight constipation- give them more fibre, such as cornflakes, veggies


Recreation & outings

In addition to the above, people with mental illness need recreational activities that will enable them to recover and enjoy life to the fullest. On Thursday 8th January 2009, I brought my wife to the Elvis Presley’s 74th Anniversary celebrations. The Singapore First Elvis Presley Fan Club at Hotel Royal organized the Dinner & Dance. There was great entertainment, good food, good company and lots of dancing. The $80 spent for the event was worth every dime and although my wife could not dance because of her severe arthritis condition, she sang to the Elvis tunes sung by Wilson David and swung and clapped her hands in pure delight. The picture taken on this blog clearly reflects her happiness.

Have a faith

Many people have often asked me if GOD helps in the healing of the mentally ill. Well, my answer is Yes & No. No, because if the person falls into a relapse, it is not wise to bring in religion at that stage, because it can confuse the mentally ill person. But when my wife has recovered, I will bring her to church where she enjoys singing the hymns and participating in the prayers.

Caregivers need God in their lives; otherwise their journey becomes very difficult. For me, Jesus has been my strength in my most difficult periods.

Our Catholic community has been very supportive to my wife and I. They have purchased many of our books and our church organized a delightful Christmas party for us in Dec 08. It brought so much happiness to my wife and I. Our kind-hearted Parish Priest, Reverend Andrew Wong, made this possible. The church and kind-hearted Christians have come forward to replace our families who do not find it in their hearts to care for us.

It’s a small, small world

Children have brought enormous joy into our lives. People have the misconception that the mentally ill will harm children. But this is certainly not true. Children give unconditional love and like pets are non-judgmental. On this blog, you will see our former neighbour’s grandchild, Jolene celebrating Christmas in our home.

How much is that doggy in the window?

Pets like dogs or cats help in the healing of the mentally ill as they can build a beautiful bond with the mental patient. The pets give boundless love and are faithful to the owner.

Write to heal

Writing helps us to pen our thoughts and sometimes release the pain in our hearts. Writing helps us to keep the mind actively engaged and patients suffering from mental illness can find meaning in this art and at the same time chart a new direction in life.

Raymond and his wife at a talk given by Raymond on mental illness at the Church of St Mary of the Angels.

Raymond with little Jolene at Christmas 2008.

Raymond and his wife, Doris at Elvis Presley's 74th Birthday Anniversary Dinner at Hotel Royal on Thursday 8th Jan 2009.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Raymond with Singapore's Elvis Presley, Wilson David at the Elvis Presley's 74th Birthday anniversary dinner held at Hotel Royal on Thursday 8th Jan 2009.

Urgent support needed for the mentally ill & their caregivers

I am deeply saddened by the attack on Member of Parliament (MP) Mr Seng Han Thong on Sunday 11th January 2009 by former cabby Ong Kah Chua aged 70 years. From the news reports, it appears that his alleged attacker is a mental patient.

Mr Seng Han Thong has always been a supportive MP and he has helped my wife, Doris Lau and myself during the periods when Doris suffered relapses of her schizophrenia. My wife and I have lit candles for Mr Seng and we will continue to pray for his full recovery.

What is also very disturbing is that the attack on Mr Seng by a mental patient is likely to further alienate psychiatric patients from our society because people will believe that ALL mental patients are violent and trouble makers. This is not true. We must do all that we can to debunk this misconception otherwise we will create enclaves in our society. Let’s face it- Our society is still not ready to accept people with mental illness and I know for a fact that there are thousands of caregivers of mental patients out there who are suffering in silence. I get emails from parents & caregivers pleading to me for help and people have spoken to me about their own stricken loved ones suffering from mental illness when I give talks all over Singapore. So, I know.

Unfortunately, suffers of mental illness and their caregivers are often shrouded in shame. I am very open about my wife’s illness and because of this people come to me because I have the courage and conviction to speak on mental health issues in the press.

But people with mental illness can recover and even excel in life. My wife who has grappled with Schizophrenia for 33 years and also stricken with severe arthritis for the last 3 years is living proof of that. Today, with my unflagging support and love she has recovered and is an author of 4 books; 3 of which are best sellers.

What is urgently needed to tackle mental illness from spreading in Singapore is a holistic approach – Clinical perspective from psychiatrists, recovered patients’ perspective and resilient caregivers’ perspective. It has not been easy for me to change mindsets in Singapore, even among mental health providers. For years, only a clinical and patients perspective has been used. This must change if mental illness is to be tackled properly. If you are a caregiver for a mentally ill family member for the very first time, you will be “groping in the dark” because the symptoms are terrifying.

As I look at it, many mental patients relapse because they do not take their medications or refuse to see the doctors. Then there is no supervision at home or family members abandon them. This is why I have always emphasized that the structural support for caregivers in Singapore is very weak. The government should built halfway houses for the mentally ill and set up databases in the CCs/CDCs to register all mental patients with the view of offering help measures to this group of citizens on a long-term basis. (This was suggested in one of my letters to the press).

AWWA Centre for Caregivers in Singapore in Lorong Napiri should play a part in helping caregivers who look after family members who have mental illness. Sadly, hardly anything is being done for caregivers of the mentally ill.

There is a whole range of ideas/suggestions that I have proposed to the authorities through my letters to the press, but if nothing is done, then the problem of mental illness spreading and destroying lives will escalate further.

The government must be quick to respond to changing patterns and lifestyles and I am very sure that as more retrenchments hit Singaporeans after Chinese New Year, more people will fall into depression.

Are we prepared for this?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Novel: THE FACE BEHIND THE FRONT

Coming your way!

Have you come across people who show one face on the outside and another on the inside? How do you feel when the trust you put in so-called friends has been abused? How do you feel when those whom you trusted, betray you?

What do you do when your job is on the line and when you have fallen by the wayside? What do you do when bosses, seen as “taskmasters” are unsympathetic and demanding?

How do you cope when you have to be a fulltime caregiver and have to find means to earn a decent living to provide for your loved one?

Well, this book written by Raymond Anthony Fernando is for YOU!

“The face behind the front” is the sequel to the author’s bestseller, “Loving a Schizophrenic”. As a solitary caregiver to his wife who has schizophrenia, “The face behind the front” focuses on the author’s many challenges he faces in caring for his loved ones, who include his beloved wife, Doris, mother and twin brother. The book reveals that beneath the mask of a happy face is a hidden face – a face etched with years of emotional pain, suffering and depression.

“The face behind the front” also speaks of the many people that have walked into Raymond Anthony Fernando’s life and they include his classmates, teachers, office colleagues, his friends and his church – people that showed one face on the outside and another on the inside.

If you are a caretaker for your loved ones, “The face behind the front” will inspire you to continue the difficult journey, strengthen your resolve and help you find meaning in a seemingly thankless task. This is a story of a caregiver’s emotional pain and how he overcomes tremendous odds to bring hope to the mentally ill as well as chart new directions in his life. In this book, the author-caregiver also provides useful caregiver tips in managing persons suffering from mental illness.

Look out for this space to check when the book will be out! The book is likely to cost $20.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Talk: How to turn a life experience into a book

Talk: How to turn a life experience into a book
Speaker: Raymond Anthony Fernando


Best-selling Author, Trainer, TV Actor & Motivation Speaker Raymond Anthony Fernando will share and teach the audience how to write a book based on a true-life experience. Raymond’s useful tips and experience has encouraged many budding writers to test new ground and even chart a second career in their lives.

Details are as follows:

Held at NTUC Income Centre, Level 8.
Time: 7pm to 9pm.
Date: Tuesday 3rd March 2009.
Fee: $4 per person.
Registration required.
Call 64777888 (Hotline) or call or SMS Ms Christina Wong at 97546240 with your name, mobile no and email. You can also email Christina at this email: wong2848-ntuc@yahoo.com


Besides this talk, Raymond also gives talks on how to manage mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia & depression. To-date Raymond has given more than 30 talks on these subjects at various organizations.