Thursday, January 22, 2009

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

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

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