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.


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!


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.


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

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.