Monday, January 19, 2009


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

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

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