Friday, December 24, 2010

“Took photos of the nude woman? You should be ashamed”

Raymond writes a second letter to the press- this time to The New Paper.

This letter on the above subject is published in The New Paper on Wednesday 22 December 2010.

I refer to the report, “I felt more and more nervous ” (The New Paper, Dec17).

Over the last six months of this year, there have been 105 incidents of people parading around nude in public. There have also been tragedies involving persons with mental illness. This is certainly a disturbing trend!

Equally disturbing was the middle-age woman, reported to be mentally ill, who boarded the SBS Transit bus in the nude on 16 December.

The onlookers who seized the opportunity to snap pictures and videos of the woman should be ashamed of themselves. Let us not forget that the woman could be someone's sister, mother or daughter.

A tough stand needs to be taken against people who find it a joy to humiliate the mentally ill. This is where the Mental Capacity Act should be enforced.

A woman's modesty should be protected at all costs. And I am glad that the bus driver took immediate steps to ensure that she was not taken advantage of. He should be commended.

People with mental illness are often left to fend for themselves because caregiving is a daunting task.

Given the rising number of people who are unable to cope with the stresses of life, there is a dire need to facilitate support and compassion for the mentally ill, who do not have a sense of belonging in a society that is bent on economic excellence.

Before the situation gets out of hand, I suggest that a high-level committee, comprising staff from the Singapore Police Force, mental health providers and related government ministries be formed to resolve problems with these marginalised citizens who need to live in dignity.

Officers from the town councils and grassroots leaders can also be roped in to tackle these problems, which often observed in our housing estates.

As the yuletide season draws to a close, bear in mind that the mentally ill are also God's children and they need love, understanding, and support - just like anyone of us.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

P.S: My Christmas & New Year wish is for the Govt to do more to help these marginalised citizens live in dignity.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Naked woman, reported to be mentally ill boards SBS Transit Bus

Letter to MYPAPER: Do more to help mentally ill
Raymond's letter to mypaper on the above subject is published today, Tuesday 21 December, page A16.


The recent case of a middle-age woman - reported to be mentally ill - who boarded an SBS Transit bus while naked is worrying.

The Chinese woman, who is in her 50s, removed her clothese at a bus stop in Ubi last Wednesday and boarded bus service 22. Police officers later arrived and arrested her.

In the last six months, there have been 105 incidents of people “parading” around naked while in public.

There have also been tragedies involving persons with mental illness. This is a cause for concern.

It was equally disturbing to read about onlookers who seized the opportunity to take photos and capture video clips of the woman while she was naked.

They should be ashamed of themselves. Let us not forget that the woman could be someone's sister, mother or daughter.

A tough stand needs to be taken against people who humiliate the mentally ill. This is where the Mental Capacity Act should be enforced.

A woman's modesty should be protected at all costs. I am glad that the bus driver stopped the bus promptly and took steps to ensure that the naked woman was shielded. He should be commended.

People who are mentally ill are often left to fend for themselves because it is a daunting task to care for them.

In view of the rising number of people who are unable to cope with stress, there is a dire need to foster support and compassion for the mentally ill, as they do not have a sense of belonging in a society that is focussed on achieving economic excellence.

I suggest that a high-level committee - comprising staff from the Singapore Police Force, mental-health providers and related ministries - be formed to resolve the problems that give rise to these marginalised citizens, who undoubtedly need to live in dignity.

Staff from the town councils and grassroots leaders could also be roped in to tackle these problems, which often take place in our housing estates.

With Christmas just around the corner, let us bear in mind that the mentally ill are also God's children, and they need love, understanding, and support - just like any one of us.

MR RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Sunday, December 12, 2010

UNPUBLISHED LETTER TO THE CATHOLIC NEWS- Expedite support for our marginalised citizens to save & reclaim more lives

I refer to the report in the Catholic News , “Unmet social needs” (CN, Dec 5).

I fully agree that there is a dire need to facilitate support and compassion of Singapore's marginalised citizens who include the mentally ill and the disabled wh...o do not have a sense of belonging in a society that is bent on economic excellence.

For years, I have been trying to secure some home-help services as the strain of caring for my wife who suffers from schizophrenia and depression for more than three decades is taking a heavy toll on me, and I'm exhausted!

The recent case of the 12-year-old disabled girl, Little Linda who had a low IQ and perished in a most cruel way broke my heart. Her parents and maid found it so hard to cope for it is never easy taking care of someone with such a condition. One life has been lost and another hangs in the balance as the maid could be charged with her the child's death.

Many caregivers who are taking care of their marginalised loved ones are also suffering burn out. Yet, securing support for us is a daunting task and fruitless exercise.

Recently, through the Centre for Enabled Living (CEL), a senior staff from a nursing home was asked to visit us to assist with some of our needs that includes meal delivery service, transportation for my wife's several medical appointments and cleaning services.

After going through the mandatory means testing, I was told I would have to pay the following charges:

$70 each time I had to ferry my wife to and fro the respective Government hospitals -Tan Tock Seng Hospital for medical arthritis treatment, and IMH for her lifelong psychiatric care.

$70 for cleaners to clean up my house for a duration of 40 minutes

A two-way trip to Tan Tock Seng Hospital would cost less than $20 and the market rate for cleaning service for 1 hour would only cost $10 - $15 per hour. So, how does this compare to the overcharging by the nursing home? And I don't have a fulltime job.

The staff at the nursing home who was far from sympathetic, told me that the home depended on donations to run its services and the guidelines are drawn up by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

Does this mean that just because I have a little CPF savings that they must squeeze every cent from faithful and dedicated caregivers like myself. You work all your life to enjoy your retirement, but in the end, almost half your money goes back to the Government through rising medical bills and such overcharging.

It is little wonder that many caregivers give up on walking the whole journey with their stricken ones because there is little compassion for our marginalised citizens. This is why it is crucial for our Catholic organisations to render us the support that we so badly need.

The formation of CLARITY to support persons with mental illness and their caregivers is taking far too long to carry out its work. So, I appeal to CARITAS - give us your support, your assistance quickly so that more lives can be saved and reclaimed.

And as the yuletide season draws close, bear in mind that the mentally ill are also God's children. Give your unconditional love and support to or marginalised brothers and sisters for that is the true meaning of Christmas.



Raymond Anthony Fernando

Singapore 560601

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Caring for loved one with health problems. Why are nursing home's rates so much higher?

Read Raymond Anthony Fernando's letter to The New Paper:

This letter was published in The New Paper today, Wednesday 8th December 2010, page 18.

For years, I have been trying to secure some home-help services as the strain of caring for my wife, who has mental and physical health problems for more than three decades, is taking a heavy toll on me.

Many caregivers who are caring for their marginalised loved ones suffer burnout. Yet, securing support for us is a daunting task.

Recently, through the Centre for Enabled Living, a senior staff from a nursing home was asked to visit us to help with some of our needs, including meal delivery, transportation for my wife's medical appointments and cleaning services.

After going through the mandatory means testing, I was told I would have to pay the following charges:

$70 to ferry my wife to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and back for each of her medical appointments.

$70 for cleaners to clean up my three-room HDB flat for 40 minutes.

A two-way trip from our home to TTSH by taxi usually costs less than $20 and the going rate for part-time cleaning services is only $10 to $15 an hour.

So, how do the nursing home's rates help?

The nursing home staff seemed far from sympathetic, saying that the home depended on donations to run its services, and the guidelines are drawn up by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

I don't have a fulltime job.

Just because I still have some CPF savings, does a faithful and dedicated caregiver like myself have to deplete everything before getting help?

It is little wonder that many caregivers give up on walking the whole journey with their stricken ones because there is so little compassion for our marginalised citizens.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, November 29, 2010

DEATH OF DISABLED GIRL:S'pore needs strong caregiver support system to boost mental health awareness

Raymond's letter on the above subject was published in The New Paper on Monday 29 November 2010, page 18.

I refer to the report, “Special needs: Caregivers need training” (The New Paper, Nov 25).

Yet another tragedy has taken place – this time involving an innocent 12-year-old who was physically disabled and had a low IQ.

It is never easy taking care of people with special needs, and if you are a novice managing someone with mental illness, you will be groping around in the dark.

The solution to prevent more tragedies from taking place is to learn the skills from seasoned caregivers who have give their stricken ones a new lease of life.

This is why, despite my never-ending difficulties in looking after my wife who sufferers from severe arthritis, I make time to volunteer at the Institute of Mental Health to share my share my experience and expertise in taking care of my wife while she recovered from schizophrenia and depression.

In my personal capacity, I also reach out to companies, clubs and government agencies to create more awareness of mental illness through motivational talks.

I would like to do more, but I face an uphill task because many are resistant to change.

Earlier this year, I got a letter signed by two government officials informing me that the Health Promotion Board and the various mental health service providers such as the Singapore Association for Mental Health and the Caregivers' Association of the Mentally Ill have been advised to engage my services to help people going through such challenges.

But none of these agencies have acted on this yet, though I have touched base with some of their staff.

If our mental health care system is to be the best in Asia, then surely, we must have an equally strong and solid caregiver support system in place.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Smart Cards for those with special needs?

My letter on the above subject was published in The New Paper on Thursday 11 November 2010.

I refer to the report, “What if he walks out naked?” (The New Paper, Nov 2).

I fully emphatise with parents who are taking care of their autistic children.

Just like sufferers of mental illness, managing a loved one with autism is also a huge challenge.

You require loads of patience, understanding and support as autistic children have problems interacting with people and they have limited interests.

I understand the anxiety and worry that Shirley faces daily as she raises Peter, her 12-year son who has a low IQ.

Her concerns about Peter getting in trouble with the law, given his special condition are valid ones.

Certainly, children and adults with special needs deserve better protection.

To reduce the anxiety of both caregivers and patients with special needs - the mentally ill, autistic children, elderly people living alone and the disabled, I urge the Government to issue a special smart card to these citizens.

It can have an electronic chip that stores confidential information about the patient's illness and special needs as well as contact details of the primary caregiver and the organisation that issues the card.

Such a special identity card should also help to reduce the workload of the police, the courts and other parties that could be involved if any offences are committed.


RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, November 1, 2010

Let MediShield help mentally ill too- Raymond's letter to The New Paper

My letter on the above matter was published in The New Paper on Monday 1 November 2010, page 16

Five years ago, I raised the issue of getting MediShield coverage for the mentally ill through The Straits Times forum page.

I have been paying for MediShield for both myself and my wife since the implementation of the scheme, but we have not benefited from this insurance policy.

But I am now encouraged that Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan has mentioned the possibility of extending MediShield to cover mental illness. It shows that the Government is listening to feedback.

MediShield coverage for mental illness will greatly help in relieving the financial burden of both psychiatric patients and their families. Such a positive move will encourage people going through the stresses of life to readily come forward for treatment.

I hope that the Health Minister can take it one step further by persuading insurers to allow the mentally ill to take up other insurance policies, including endowment and life insurance policies.


Let me also record my deepest appreciation to Mr Heng Chee How, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office for the wonderful support that he has given my wife and me for several years.

Mr Heng has shown remarkable compassion for the mentally ill and acts quickly on issues that I have raised to him.

Likewise, my MP, Mr Seng Han Thong, has been supportive to our struggles and renders assistance whenever he is able to.

Dr Lily Neo, MP for Jalan Besar GRC, has also demonstrated compassion and care for lonely elderly and the mentally ill through the many social support programmes that she has initiated.

Singapore can become a gracious society and be the best home to live in so long as we have MPs who emphatise with the suffering of our marginalised citizens.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, October 11, 2010



Raymond Anthony Fernando is selected as the Health Promotion Board and Silver Ribbon Champion of Mental Health for the year 2010.

Here Raymond is seen receiving his award from the Guest of Honour, A/Prof Fatimah Lateef, MP for Marine Parade GRC on Sunday 3rd October 2010.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Letter to The New Paper: Internet clip showing woman shouting on MRT train
Stop humiliating the mentally ill

Raymond 's letter is published in The New Paper today, Sat 9 October 2010, page 29.

Isolation. Depression. Shame. Guilt. Loneliness. Stigmatisation. Mental illness cause these.

Stigmatisation can cause discrimination in the workplace and in the community, unnecessary violence and inappropriate hospitalisation.

Sufferers will experience a loss of self esteem, self worth and a complete loss of hope.

In extreme cases, the effects of the stigma can lead them to harm themselves.

A video titled Stressed has been uploaded on YouTube and features a woman shouting at passengers on the MRT.

At one point, the woman scolds a man who is sitting on the priority seats and chases him away.

The video is fast becoming viral.

Netizens, including those on Facebook have passed all kinds of humiliating and insensitive comments about the woman, who is obviously unstable.

“Siao char bor” (crazy woman) one netizen commented.

This insensitive remark leads others to poke fun and humiliate the woman.

Here is one comment I saw: “Oh my God. Ha ha. Need someone like this in every carriage on the MRT. Then no one will sit on the reserved seats.”

Another one commented on her state of mind and warned: “Stay away from her...”

There were more comments, some of them even more offensive.

With the new media reaching out to millions, such degrading comments will further stigmatise the mentally ill.

The bottom line - when people don't understand mental illness, they become biased towards the sufferers.

In general, people tend to fear or dislike what they don't know because they view it as a threat.

I urge the Government to enforce the Mental Capacity Act and take swift action against those who deliberately abuse and humilate the mentally ill.

To this end, I suggest we rope in stigma busters among mental health care providers, grassroots leaders and advocates within the community who can help identify such perpetrators.
As we mark World Mental Health Day tomorrow, I hope that those who discriminate against the mentally ill will spare a though for pyschiatric patients who are struggling to cope with their illnesses.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Insensitive video- "Stressed"

Viewpoints: Letter to My Paper: Spare a thought for the mentally ill

Raymond's letter to MY Paper is published today, Thursday 7 October 2010 on page A17

Sufferers of mental illness are often stigmatised, which leads to discrimination in the workplace and the community.

These people experience a range of emotions, from depression and shame to guilt and loneliness.

Their self-esteem drops and they get overcome by a sense of hopelessness. In extreme cases, the stigma attached to their condition leads them to commit suicide.

Recently, a video titled, “Stressed” was uploaded on YouTube. It features a woman ranting and raving at passengers on board an MRT train and, at one point, she scolds a man on the priority seat and chases him away. The video has gone viral. To date, the original video has been viewed more than 330,000 times.

Netizens, including Facebook users have passed all kinds of insensitive comments about the woman, who is obviously unstable.

“Siao char bor” (crazy woman) one netizen commented.

With the new media reaching out to millions, such degrading comments will further stigmatise the mentally ill.

The bottom line is this: People become biased towards the mentally ill because they do not understand mental illness.

In general, people tend to fear or dislike what they do not know know because they view it as a threat.

I urge the Government to take action against those who abuse and humilate the mentally ill.

Mental heath-care providers, grassroots leaders and advocates for the mentally ill may be able to help identify such perpetrators.

As we celebrate World Mental Health Day on Sunday, I hope that those who discriminate against the mentally ill will spare a though for pyschiatric patients who are struggling to cope with their illness.

MR RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO
Advocate for the mentally ill

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

GOODBYE, MRS LEE (MM Lee's wife)

A timely reminder to value marriage

Raymond's letter to The New Paper on the passing of Mrs Lee (MM Lee's wife) is published in The New Paper today, Wed , 6th Oct 2010, page 22.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's candid revelations in The New York Times about his personal life, which came just weeks before Mrs Lee's death , were a timely reminder to all of us to value and cherish the marriage bonds.

Undoubtedly, MM Lee has observed the sanctity of marriage in every sense of the word by caring and loving his wife “in sickness and in health.”

People will have to grapple with pain and suffering when they see their loved ones struggle with life-threatening illnesses, till the inevitable end.

Love can be wonderful, but it can also be very painful when suffering places us in despair.

Yet there is something hidden in suffering which makes us more aware of who we are, why we are here and where we are heading.

And in a moment of suffering, that awareness become intense.

It was good that MM Lee spoke about the pain of caring for his bedridden wife, and I'm sure that on this day, the thoughts of many Singaporeans will be with him and his family.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mental illness: Vital for caregivers to have support

My letter on the above subject \was published in The New Paper on Monday 4th October 2010.

I refer to the report, “Father and son were always together (The New Paper, Sept 27).

The alleged murder-suicide case involving Mr Shariffudin Abdul Kader and his mentally disabled son is yet another heart-wrenching story of how many families are struggling to cope with mental illness.

Mental illness is never easy to manage. Relationships are torn apart, home and families are lost, and anticipated futures evaporate.

Respect is eroded and a person is often left with nothing and no one — and at a point in their lives when they are the least capable of helping themselves.

This is why caregivers need vital structural support.

It's understandable that many people give up hope and make decisions based on the need to ease the pain of the moment. Mr Shariffudin Abdul Kader who loved his son dearly, probably felt that way.

And so did the Singapore-born Tan Hung Kiat who killed his schizophrenic wife in Australia with a fatal dose of her psychiatric drugs.

The toll of caring full time for his wife for 19 years was clearly too much for him. He was drained out - physically, mentally and probably financially.

The Institute of Mental Health's vision of becoming the leading mental health centre in Asia by 2012 can be realised only if there is an excellent support structure for caregivers.


RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mental illness is a shared responsibility: Raymond's letter to the press

Raymond's letter on the above matter is published in The New Paper today, Tuesday 21 September 2010, page 18.

I refer to the report, “This is her flat but.. this is her bedroom (The New Paper, Sept 11).

The case of Madam Mainam Mahmud and her mentally ill daughter shows yet again how mental illness without family and community support can cause havoc.

Many family members will adopt a hands-off attitude when a loved one is stricken with mental illness. That's the harsh reality.

Caregiving should be a shared responsibility and I hope that the Government will drive home this point.

People with mental illness can recover if they have a sense of belonging and worthiness.

In the case of the daughter, who is equipped with a science degree from the National University of Singapore, I am confident that if she is gainfully employed and continues her treatment, she will recover and go on to lead a normal life.

But an all-out effort must be made to eliminate the prejudices and barriers that those with mental illnesses face.

To tackle mental illness, the Government, the mental health-care providers, voluntary welfare organisations and the community support must play their part.

For a start, the Institute of Mental Health can send out a team to see how best they can help the family.

Next, the relevant town council should help to clean up the Havelock Road flat as the unhygienic condition that the daughter has created because of her obsessive compulsive disorder can be harmful to her, as well to the residents in the nearby flats.

Placing Madam Maniam in a nursing home temporarily will enable the 73-year-old woman to live with dignity.

Let us work together to ensure that the mentally ill and their families have a place in our society. And that they too, can call Singapore the best home to live in.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, September 6, 2010

National Service Recognition Award -Older men deserve recognition too - Raymond's letter to the press


My letter to The New Paper is published today, Monday 6 September 2010, page 16.

I refer to the report, “A reward for each NS milestone completed”(The New Paper, September 1).

The new National Service Recognition Award (NSRA) announced by the Prime Minister in his National Day Rally speech is a good scheme.

It will clearly make a distinction between citizens and non-citizens. Most certainly, it will benefit the younger generation.

But I am deeply disappointed that our senior citizens who have also contributed to the defence and stability of Singapore for many years have not been given even a fraction of this incentive.

Why is that?

Male senior citizens have also made sacrifices in performing national service. Their families have spent days and nights alone when their loved ones carried out their military training in Singapore as well as overseas.

I do not buy the argument by Minister of State for Defence Associate Professor Koo Tsai Kee, that those “who have finished the cycle have benefited from other awards over the years”.

He also said: “The policy is not retroactive... We have to move on and the next generation will benefit.”

I find his statement insensitive to the feelings of older men.

There is far too much emphasis and support for the younger generation, and even though our older males have shown loyalty and commitment to the nation, their contributions do not seem as valued.

If the PAP founding fathers are recognised, why are our older males not given the same recognition as the younger NS men?

I appeal to the Government to rethink its policies so that they will benefit our elderly folks.

Given that many are likely to fall ill in their twilight years, I suggest that, perhaps half of the NSRA incentive (which can amount up to $10,500 for commanders) be given to our older men who have completed national service.

The money can, at least, defray part of their health-care costs.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Raymond's letter to the New Paper: Foreign workers- Give them better support

My letter on the above subject was published in The New Paper on Thursday 2 September 2010.

I refer to the report, “His life was in my trembling hands” (The New Paper, Aug 31).

Most certainly Shin Min Daily News reporter, Miss Law Shu Hui who emphatised with construction worker Wang Yong should be commended for reclaiming a life which could have been lost.

Even though Miss Law has been a reporter for slightly more than a year, she found it in her heart to show love and concern to another human being.

It didn't matter to her if he was a Singaporean or a foreigner. She came forward because she knew that the China national was in distress.

That, to me, is what the Singapore Spirit is all about.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech that more foreign workers were needed to keep the economy growing.

Given that more foreigners are set to land on our shores, we need to think of ways of giving them better support as well.

Employers who do not treat their workers fairly should be taken to task. Also, are foreign workers allowed to join unions to proctect them againts unfair work practices?

If not, perhaps, it is time to review the policies and allow these workers to have their own unions that can comes under the ambit of the relevant authorities.

There should also be support groups that can counsel, comfort and find quick solutions to those who are struggling to cope.

Our voluntary welfare organisations in the mental health-care industries could come alongside the Humanitarian Organisation for Migrant Economics (Home) and start support groups.

These would help those who are going through the stresses of life to cope better.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Youth Olympics Games (YOG): Teething problems normal - Raymond's letter to the press

This letter was published in The New Paper on Saturday 28 August 2010.

I refer to the report, “Stop whining”(The New Paper, Aug 26).

I applaud the efforts of Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports and his organising committee for putting Singapore on the world map through the Youth Olympic Games (YOG).

Undoubtedly, sports can help to unite the world.

As with any huge event, teething problems are bound to set in - no matter how meticulously the event is planned.

Some 30 years ago, during my public relations stint in broadcasting, I was part of the organising committee that planned the Asia-Pacific Union Broadcasters conference.

Despite careful planning, there were still some problems that arose from time to time.

I can, therefore, understand some of the lapses that have occurred in organising this major sporting event.

Despite his hectic schedule, Dr Balakrishnan made it a point to be at several venues, mingled with the athletes and volunteers during the games and meal breaks, giving them encouragement and support.

Certainly, the minister has worked tirelessly to make the event a success.

But there is much unhappiness on the ground because many feel that the projected expenses for the YOG - $387 million - is too lavish.

The revelation from the Auditor-General Office's on lapses of fund management at several government agencies has also caused dissatisfaction among Singaporeans.

For instance, some nursing homes did not get the full subsidies they should have received from the Health Ministry.

The feeling is that feedback is not well-heeded and this is, perhaps, why some netizens have resorted to posting their frustrations online.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Friday, August 20, 2010

NEW BOOK: “There's LIGHT at the end of the DARK TUNNEL”


How do we react when we face huge challenges in life? Can we learn to forgive? Does the devil exist? And does practising a faith help provide us with a smoother life journey? Drawing on his personal struggles, Raymond Anthony Fernando discusses some of these issues in this collection of stories titled, “There's LIGHT at the end of the DARK TUNNEL.”

In this book, Raymond tells of strange encounters, untold paranormal incidents, some inspirational stories and testimonies of God's love. Replete with suspense and mystery, the book will keep readers on the edge of their seats with stories such as And then, there was light”, “Dad's near fatal accident”,The green and beige house”, “The power of prayer” and many more.

Recounting his spiritual and emotional encounters and providing moving testimonies of his faith journey, Raymond also testifies how the power of prayer can work wonders and help us see light at the end of the tunnel.

The book cost $15.

For Singapore readers: To order a copy, kindly send an email to Raymond at his email adress at rafcutie@singnet.com.sg . Book can be mailed to the reader by post ($2 mailing charge will be added to cover postage cost).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

DEPRESSION - Look out for these warning signs!

Having gone through depression for a few years and have recovered fully from it, I would like to share with you some of the warning signs that you need to look out for when coping with depression.

These are:

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 worthlessm - that life is meaningless

9. Having thoughts of suicide

For ladies, depression sometimes comes right before their menstrual period. Some women expect to feel depressed, even making a habit of it. There is a way to fight it. First of all, take your mind off it. Do things that you enjoy doing, like dancing, listening to music and watching comical movies. Engaging in happy things makes you feel happy and also makes you look confident.

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.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, August 2, 2010

DAMAGES FROM FLOODS AND RAINS - Charity should begin at home

Raymond's letter to the New Paper on the above subject is published today in the New Paper, Monday 2 August 2010, page 18.

I refer to the report, “Who should pay when this happens?” (The New Paper, July 25).

Though the authorities have indicated that the recent floods and fallen trees are considered acts of God, the Government agencies involved must also bear some responsibility for those who have suffered hardship.

We are not only facing an ageing population, but we are also witnessing ageing trees.

When the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico hit homes, businesses and livelihoods, the National Alliance on Mental Illness in America took up the matter with British Petroleum asking the company to provide financial support for those affected. That is the way to go.

Project Manager Chua Loong Wai, who was crushed to death by a fallen tree was only 32 when he lost his life. He perished in a most cruel way.

His family members must be going through enormous pain and suffering. Surely there should be an effort to see that they are not put under more stress because of difficulties in securing compensation?

The Singapore Government has been giving generously in cash and kindness to support victims and families affected by natural disasters in other countries. And it has done so almost immediately. No questions asked.

I wonder whether our own citizens who have suffered losses caused by floods and fallen trees have got the same kind of assistance.

Shouldn't charity begin at home?

Certainly, there needs to be better welfare for Singaporeans going through the stresses of life, and these include citizens who are marginalised.

In addition to the money and resources that is being given to countries affected by natural disasters, the Singapore Government should start an emergency fund to help Singaporeans affected by disasters in our own country - natural or otherwise.

The National Environment Agency could also start a fund-raising effort to help the affected families.

I have every confidence that our citizens would readily come forward to support this worthy cause. Religious bodies could also be roped in to lend support to the affected victims and their families.

Only when we are able to care for each other unconditionally, can we truly build a gracious, caring and cohesive society that will stay resilient in facing the many challenges ahead.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mum's grief a cry for help, govt agencies can assist

Raymond's letter is published in the New Paper today, Monday 26 July 2010, page 17.

Every now and then I read reports of Singaporeans unable to cope with the stresses of life.
“Mum still pretends 'Ah Girl' is alive,” (The New Paper, July 20) is yet another heart-wrenching story.

In her own words, “There is no conclusion, no closure. But what can we do?”

Madam Quek Lay Lian is clearly crying out for help as she goes through tremendous emotional pain of losing her beloved daughter Candice Goh Hui Yi.
The 17-year-old's boyfriend who was traumatised and hospitalised with acute grief will also find it hard to cope with the tragic death of his girlfriend. It can haunt him for a long time.

People struggling to cope with stress and depression may not seek treatment because many in our society are still not ready to accept people with mental illness.

Depression and other types of mental illness are unpredictable, as was the case with the late Ms Kerin Peh who could not cope with the mysterious death of her husband on their wedding night.

Professional help should have been offered to Ms Kerin Peh when she first attempted to end her life by slitting her wrists. Ms Peh's apparent suicide and now Candice Goh's fatal fall raise questions above the support mechanisms in Singapore.

All of us, including government agencies, have a role to play in keeping our suicides rate down. We should not just offer advice, but take it one step further by bringing counselling and psychiatric services right to the doorstep of those who are in dire need of help.

This is how it works:
An appointed ministry scans the newspapers everyday to look out for those who are unable to cope or who are at risks of harming themselves. They then tie-up with the relevant counselling centres, hospitals or voluntary welfare organisations to offer professional services to those who require help.

Simply put - bring the services right to the doorstep of those struggling to cope.

Funds can come from ComCare or the Government could set up a special “Life Fund” to assist such people. In the case of those who are facing hardships, these counselling services should be offered free of charge.

The Government should also provide the necessary resources and money so that the appointed voluntary welfare organisations or hospitals can better manage the increased workload.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, July 19, 2010

Look for alternative ways to deal with the problem of littering

Raymond's letter on the above matter is published in the New Paper today, Monday 19 July 2010

I refer to the report,, “Govt gets tough about high-rise littering” (The New Paper, July 12).

The idea of shaming litterbugs by placing their photographs at the HDB blocks or in the town council's newsletter is not only heavy handed, but may add more social problems within the community.

As it is, there is much discord among neighbours. If residents who litter are humilated in the manner suggested, they and their families will face resentment from neighbours who are bound to shun them.

Once the litterbugs becomes isolated, they can also become depressed. They may even have to consider relocating.

Why is there a need to always punish people for doing the wrong thing. Can't we, instead, catch people doing the right thing and find more innovative ways to curb littering?

These are some suggestions for alternative ways of dealing with the problem.

1. The Member of Parliament and his grassroots leaders could organise a sponsored Commmunity Clean Up Day and get residents involved. Have a quiz segment with prizes and round it up with a light tea session and finger food.

Such an event could help to raise awareness of the need to keep our environment clean and green, and it will be an excellent way of bonding with neighbours. Good food and prizes can be a good way to promote neighbourliness and “sell” a policy.

2. Grassroots leaders can be on the look out for role model residents who are environment friendly. Place their photographs on the notice boards and town council's newsletters and reward them with rebates on both service and conservancy charges as well as on their PUB bills.

3. Besides Corrective Work Orders, the litterbugs can be made to undertake
some community work.

When we use reverse psychology, we not only prevent resentment, but we also can educate our residents to support good Government policies.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Friday, July 16, 2010

Letter to MY PAPER: Have support groups to help the mentally ill

My letter was published in the MY Paper on Wednesday 14 July 2010.

Those suffering from mental illnesses requires 24-hour care and this leads to many caregivers sufffering burn-out.

I know because as I am the sole caregiver to my wife who has battled schizophrenia and depression for 35 years, and my journey has not been easy.

In February last year, I proposed through the media that the Ministry of Community Development,Youth and Sports(MCYS) tie up with the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), voluntary welfare organisations and residents' committees to set up a database to provide help to the mentally ill and their caregivers.

MCYS informed me that it was looking into this, but I hope - given the increasing number of people who are unable to cope with the stresses of life- the suggestion can be approved and implemented quickly.

As a volunteer with IMH, I am often invited by the institute to share my experience of helping my wife cope with her mental illness with students and employees of many organisations.
In addition, I travel all over Singapore sharing my life experience with many companies with a key message - mental illness is treatable.

I have offered my services at the grassroots levels and at the community- development councils, but sadly, there are no takers.

If grassroots leaders know more about mental illness, they can start support groups within their own constituencies to lend support to the mentally ill.

Let us work together to manage mental illness.

MR RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Letter to the Press: COPING WITH STRESS & GRIEF

Letter to the New Paper: COPING WITH STRESS & GRIEF
Provide help for those who struggle

Raymond's letter on the above matter is published in the New Paper today, Tuesday 13 July 2010, page 18.

I refer to the report, “She bought niche next to hubby's ashes (The New Paper, 6 July).

Once again, another innocent life has been taken. Within less than a year two tragedies have hit this family – the apparent suicide of Ms Kerin Peh and the mysterious death of her beloved husband.

I could not hold back my tears as I read about the chain of events that led to Ms Peh's tragic end and how her family is devasted by her untimely passing.

Undoubtedly,her mother and sisters need a great deal of help as they struggle to come to terms with her death. Otherwise, they, too, are likely to fall into depression.

Although the media has run stories on suicides, many of these tragedies go unreported, which is also the case with many people struggling with depression and other types of mental illness.

Address the problem

We cannot afford to sweep this problem under the carpet. We need to address the problems of people struggling with the stresses of life and come up with quick solutions, because every life is precious.

Caregivers who are looking after a loved one with mental illness are in urgent need of support because caregiving requires round-the clock-supervision. The illness is unpredictable, as was the case of the grief-stricken widow, Ms Peh.

I repeat to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, a sugestion which I first made in February last year. It should collaborate with the mental health providers, the residents committees and set up a database that can provide help measures to the mentally ill and their caregivers.

Given my 35 years' experience in helping my wife cope with schizophrenia and depression, I have often been roped in to share my life experience with students and staff from various organisations through motivational talks.

So I am repeating an offer I have made in the past, to give motivational talks to the Community Development Councils. I feel my caregiving skills can be useful to grassroots leaders and staff of the CDCs.

I would like to help grassroots leaders start support groups within their own constituencies once they have acquired the skills.

My mother taught me to feel for the less fortunate. I feel passionately about the mentally ill and their caregivers and hope that more can be done for this group.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Thursday, July 8, 2010

NEIGHBOURHOOD FACILITIES: Involve residents in future plans

Raymond's letter on the above subject is published in the New Paper today, Thursday 8 July, page 19.

I refer to the two reports in the New Paper, “ Can we be more tolerant” (July 3 ) and “Dear MP, scrap plans for childcare/eldercare/dialysis centre (The New Paper, June 30).

Some of the concerns of the residents are valid as many are worried that the value of their flats may fall.

The noise coming from the construction of future amenities could also disrupt the peace and quiet which people guard jealously.

I believe that one reason why some Singaporeans are unhappy about new facilities is that they are not consulted on future plans in their neighbourhood.

If communication is poor or non-existent, there can be a great deal of misunderstanding.

When a childcare centre was built in our Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5 block, we were told about it. It caught us by surprise.

In fact, when the childcare centre was being built, many of us believed our property prices would be affected.

But this was not the case.

Indeed, more people are now asking to buy flats in our block and prices have gone up.

Highlighting this can be a way to reassure residents.

If Singaporeans are consulted, given notice of future plans and made to see the advantages of added amenities, I am sure they would be more accepting.

Our Members of Parliament, grassroots leaders and town council staff can play a role.

HDB could also set aside a number of flats for temporary accomodation where the elderly sick and those who cannot bear with excessive noise can find some comfort.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Making Singapore the best home to live in: Enlist girls for social service, basic training


Raymond's letter on the above idea is published in the New Paper today, Wednesday 30th June 2010, page 16.

I have been following the exchange of views about women doing national service.

It is troubling to read reports of our teens getting in trouble with the law, the elderly being abused, the increase in divorce cases and families falling apart as they try to cope with the pressures of our fast-paced society.

Singapore is also seeing one of the fastest ageing populations in the world and measures have to be put in place so that our old folks can have a better quality of life in their twilight years.

Instead of our girls doing military service as part of national service, I would suggest that once they turn 18, they be enlisted for social service for one year, with three months of basic training – running alongside the national service scheme for our males, but modified where applicable.

Our hospitals and nursing homes need more staff to tackle the growing needs of the sick. Our elderly need a range of home-help services that could include meal delivery, cleaning services and befrienders.

People with mental illness are often isolated and left to fend for themselves. The volunteers at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) have been bringing joy and comfort to long-staying patients who are often isolated and lonely.

I am sure IMH could well do with more resources, given that with more public education, more people are coming forward for treatment.

Performing community service not only instills discipline, but can help our girls to feel for the less fortunate.

Once this sense of caring for another human being is ingrained in our young trained females, they will be able, at a later stage, to pass on such virtues to their own families, colleagues and friends.

Ultimately if you have love in your heart, procreation can come naturally.

If our young female trainees get a feel of community work, they might also want to consider a career in the places that the are attached to.

If we build a nation of citizens who know how to care for one another, wouldn't Singapore be the best home to live in?

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Friday, June 18, 2010

“Family must remain pillar of society” says MCYS Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishan. Raymond responds to the Minister's statement

Raymond's letter to the New Paper: "Support for those who care for mentally ill"
Published on Friday 18 th June 2010, page 22.

I refer to the article, “Family must remain pillar of society” (The New Paper, 8 June). I agree with Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishan that the family must remain the crucial, social pillar of our nation.

However, those suffering from mental illness cannot always rely on family support because the illness is unpredictable and requires round-the- clock supervision.

Family members who do not have the patience and perseverance will not want to travel this journey.

We are discriminated againts, isolated and shunned. My wife and I are in this unfortunate predicament, and so are many other psychiatric patients.

Caregivers like me are not asking for the Government to take on the role of surrogate family or relative.

What we want is good caregiver support to make our journey easier.

The bone in my right heel has worn out and causes severe pain when I walk.

My wife who have several chronic illnesses, also has great difficult walking because of arthritis.
There will come a time when we will have to take taxis wherever we go.

I have asked for the peak hour taxi surcharges and Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges to be waived for people like us, but to no avail.

Yet, the Land Transport Authority was flexible enough to reduce the ERP rates fees at certain gantries during the June holidays.

Food

I wish we could get cooked meals deliverd or be able to buy ready-to-cook food from the supermarkets.

But my suggestions have got me nowhere. Nobody seems to be willing to help.

Some people have suggested that I place my wife in a nursing home.

My answer to them is simple: “Even if I am in a wheelchair, I will walk with her- all the way. And if schizophrenia and other illnesses are part of her life, it must surely be part of my life”.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, June 14, 2010

Letter to the New Paper: More social support needed for mentally ill

Raymond's letter on the above matter is published in the New Paper on Monday 14 June 2010, page 17.

I am encouraged by two recent media reports which indicate to me that the Government is listening to feedback and is willing to provide better support for low-income families, including those with mental health issues.

One was, “Work Support Programme - Govt study to track impact of scheme” (The New Paper, June 4).

The proposed study on the Work Support Programme will enable the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports to fine-tune the programmes to give better support for low income families.

This is the right move given that we are facing more and more social problems.

Under the programme, I urge the Government to consider awarding grants or sponsorship that could allow those with special needs such as psychiatric patients and their caregivers to work from home with the skills that they possess or could acquire.

There was also a report in The Straits Times on June 5, “$70m more for Temasek charity”.
Temasek Cares, a charity funded by Temasek Holdings, is giving good support to the mentally ill.

I share the view of chairman Richard Magnus that mental illness is not an area given much attention in Singapore.

To raise caregiving to a higher level, I urge Temasek Cares and the Government to consider building affordable hostels within the grounds of the Institute of Mental Health or in the vicinity so that caregivers can rent a room and be close to their loved ones hospitalised there.

Providing strong emotional support can be vital to their quick recovery.

These hostels could also be rented out when required in other circumstances, such when the Lift Upgrading Programme(LUP) is carried out.

One of the trigger factors that can cause my wife to fall seriously ill is excessive noise such as the hacking of the brick walls during the LUP.

It was no easy feat for me to frantically hunt for cheaper alternative accommodation when this started in our block recently.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Saturday, June 12, 2010

One of Singapore's best emcees, show host and MC- Meet the fabulous Joe Augustin

Joe Augustin is one of the best DJ's in the business. He is a great compere, Master of Ceremonies and a good host. Joe who has 23 years experience , is probably the best insurance you can buy to ensure your events runs smoothy.

At a recent church event, he was so polished and gave a sterling performance. The 1,000 strong audience clicked so well with his easy-going, warm style. And everyone has a roaring good time. Thanks for the memories , Joe. Will definitely recommend you to my friends.

To get to know Joe better, click onto this link:
http://emcee.joeaugustin.com/
You can also see his vibrant personality on the picture further down.

Cheers
Raymond Anthony Fernando

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Letter to the New Paper: MODEL HEALTH-CARE WORKER - She's concerned for caregivers too

Raymond's letter on the above subject is published in The New Paper today, Saturday, 29th May 2010, Page 32.

I refer to the report, “ Got bitten but she's not beat” (The New Paper, May 23).
I am glad that senior nurse manager Doris Koh has been recognised for her dedication and commitment in helping psychiatric patients on the road to recovery.
What is also remarkable about Madam Koh is that, besides showing love and compassion for psychiatric patients, she also comforts and shows concern to caregivers.

This is an exceptional virtue, and must be promoted because caregiving is extremely tough.

A few years ago when my wife suffered a relapse of schizophrenia, she needed Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) to help in her recovery.

Treatment

During ECT a brief current is passed through electrodes on the scalp to stimulate the brain. The seizure activity during ECT causes changes in brain chemistry, which bring about an improvement in the illness and agitation.

It has never been easy for me to allow my wife to go for ECT.

It is a most painful decision, but experience has taught me that the only way my wife can be stabilised is through this method.

On the appointed day, my wife refused to undergo ECT.

But Doris Koh held my wife's hand and pursuaded her to complete the treatment.

Her caring nature, assurance and comforting words eventually convinced my wife that she was in good hands.

Madam Koh also comforted me and gave me the support that I so badly needed.

She understood the anxiety and stress I had to deal with.

My regular phone calls to her on my wife's condition during this difficult period were met with patience, assurance and understanding.

Believe me, it helped.

Congratulations, Madam Koh.

Your compassion and dedication to the sick should be an inspiration for all health-care staff in the Institue of Mental Health, as well in other hospitals.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Raymond's letter to the New Paper: COST OF TAKING TAXIS:Help disabled & drivers by lowering charges

My letter on the above subject is published in the New Paper today, Tuesday, 25th May 2010, page 17. Read on.....

I refer to the report, “ Cabby gives himself just 5 min for lunch” (The New Paper, May 21).

I feel sorry for our taxi drivers who have to slog long hours to provide for themselves and their families, besides having to worry about meeting their mortgage payments on their flats.

Many taxi drivers have told me that with more surcharges and higher ERP rates, they have lost passengers. The cost of living in Singapore is rising and people have to be more prudent in their spending.

At the same time, there are the sick, the disabled and the elderly who have no choice but to take taxis for their medical appointments at public hospitals.

My wife who is unable to take the MRT or buses because of her severe arthritis, needs to take taxis for all her medical appointments. And most of the time, her medical appointments to see the specialists at public hospitals fall within the peak period.

As a full-time caregiver who gave up my job nine years ago, I find these taxi charges too much for us to afford.

Though receational needs are vital to my wife's recovery from schizophrenia and depression, we have to forgo outings and attending church services because taking a taxi is too expensive. Does anybody care?

When I approached the Handicaps Welfare Association to ask for transport to take my wife to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, I was told that I would have to pay double the fees if the pick up is before 9am.

Despite repeated calls for better support for people with disabilities, the sick and elderly, we still struggle with these issues.

How can caregiving in Singapore be taken to a higher level when there is no welfare for these citizens? Little wonder that many caregivers who cannot cope have abandoned their stricken ones.

Removing these taxi surcharges will not only benefit the taxi drivers, but it will also help to reduce the financial burden placed on this group citizens.

Reducing the taxi rental costs will also help taxi drivers maintain a healthier lifestyle. Many Singaporeans have to end up in hospitals or polyclinics because of the stress of our unhealthy lifestyle.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cancer cannot kill love: Raymond's letter to the New Paper: BATTLING TERMINAL ILLNESSES

Raymond's letter to the New Paper: BATTLING TERMINAL ILLNESSES
Trust in prayer and embrace hope


My letter to the New Paper on the above matter is published in the New Paper today, Friday 14 May 2010, page 25.

I refer to the report, “ I want a happy death” (The New Paper, May 2).

Battling cancer is tough, especially when the patient is at a terminal stage. While I fully empathise with Madam Lim Kim Keow's plight, I want to encourage her not to give up on life.

I tried to hurt myself in 1995. Fortunately I did not succeed.

But the experience has taught me that if I had succeeded, there might have been no one to take care of my wife, who struggles with five chronic illnesses.

I now realise that life is precious and fervently believe that since God gave us life, only He can take it away.

It has never been easy for me take care of my wife all by myself, but I am able to overcome adversities through the power of prayer and by embracing hope.

Hope is the greatest weapon a person has when faced with huge challenges in life. When we are able to overcome adversities, we will gain inner strength. And when we gain inner strength, we will find peace.

Though Madam Lim has to struggle with terminal cancer, she is fortunate to have a wonderful family who is willingly to fork out $6,000 each month so that she receives good care in a loving environment.

She has a devoted husband, two grown children and a grandchild who seem to provide her with unconditional love.

Cancer kills, but it cannot cripple love and it must not shatter hope. With supportive staff at the hospice and well-wishers, including journalists and kind-hearted readers of the New Paper, cancer will not be able to kill friendship.

I hope Madam Lim's plight will spur The New Paper readers, her former students and colleagues to give her the support that she so badly needs.

Cancer patients and those with life-threatening illnesses do not need visions of desperation, fear and doubt. If we are able to open our hearts and give them unconditional love and unflagging support, we will begin the journey of healing, peace and happiness.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Friday, May 7, 2010

MY MOTHER'S EYES- A Tribute to my Mom on Mother's Day- Sunday 9th May 2010

Article written By: Raymond Anthony Fernando

Those of us who enjoy listening to music of the 60s' will definitely remember English singer and songwriter Russ Hamilton's all time favourite, “My mother's eyes” .

The opening lyrics goes like this:

“ One bright and guiding light
That taught me wrong from right
I found in my mother's eyes”.........


Whenever I hear this song on the radio, it brings fond memories of my dear mother. Some of the virtues which I have inherited from my mother, Mrs Pearl Rodrigo, a Eurasian, includes kindness and resilience. My mother is able to withstand extreme hardships when facing adversities.

Mum has a soft heart and she inculcated good values in all her children. She taught us how to feel for another human being. She taught us the true meaning of love. I remember mum often giving some of her delicious cooked meals to the rubbish collectors when she observed that they were poor and carried out a job that many would not undertake.

I guess I must have inherited mum's resilience and this virtue has helped me tremendously to care and love my wife who was stricken with schizophrenia at the tender age of 17.

Mum is one person that does not discriminate. When I told her that I was intending to marry Doris, a Chinese who has a serious mental disorder, mum never discouraged me from taking her as my lifelong partner.

“It does not matter what illness she has or what race she belongs to. So long as you love each other and can take care of her, you have my blessings,” mum assured me.

Mum passed on her culinary skills to my wife, enabling me to look forward to a sumptuous meal everyday. Through the art of cooking, my wife has managed to produce not one, but two successful cookbooks.

My mother's compassion for my wife has equipped me with patience and understanding. She taught me how to love a woman unconditionally. Many a time when my wife suffered a relapse, mum would comfort and give me lots of encouragement. She taught me the power of prayer.

“Son, Doris has been a good wife, so bear with her disorientated state. She is behaving in this manner because she has suffered a relapse. She will get well with treatment. When you married her , you vowed to love her in sickness and in health,” mum would encourage me. “Meanwhile trust in God and offer your sufferings to Jesus. I will also pray for her speedy recovery.”

Through the support, love and understanding, my mum has played a major role in helping my wife to recover after she returns from hospital.

I would like to sum up my feelings for my mother and all mothers in this poem which is fitting for Mother's Day:

A Mother’s Love

When a child is crying
A mother will dry those tears

When a child is in pain
A mother will feel the same

When a child is hungry
A mother will sacrifice her own meals

When a child is troubled
A mother will share the burden

When a child is sick
A mother ensures that the recovery is quick

When a child has no answers
A mother will find the solution

@copyrightraymondfernando2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

GOLD ON SILVER

Letter to the New Paper: Doing more for senior citizens -
Show re-runs of old TV Shows


My letter on the above subject is published today in the New Paper, page 20.

Many of our seniors citizens who have fulfilled their responsibilities in the past should be able to look forward to a better quality of life in their twilight years.

MediaCorp TV and radio have a role to play in supporting our elderly. Certainly a trip down memory lane will help to revive the beautiful memories that our seniors have of what they once enjoyed.

During the 60s and 70s, there were some very entertaining programmes on television and radio. Television shows like Dr Kildare, Ben Casey, 77 Sunset Strip, Sea Hunt and many more always had a large following.

Westerns such as The Rifleman, Rin Tin Tin and The Lone Ranger also had viewers glued to the small screen.

Ours seniors will definitely appreciate a revival of such TV shows including comedies like The Jack Benny Show and I love Lucy. I remember Jack Benny could easily secure a laugh just by his body language.

Even our local TV productions such as Pop In, Dendang Ria and Talentime were also delightfully entertaining.

Though all these programmes were in black and white, I am sure ours seniors will enjoy watching them all over again because it brings back beautiful memories.

Could MediaCorp TV introduce a senior citizens slot on Channel 5 to recognise those who have contributed much to nation building?

Community support

I remember veteran broadcaster Lucy Leong hosting a radio show dedicated to the sick. Listeners could write in and request songs and send get-well wishes for their loved ones who were hospitalised.

Such a programme could be brought back as part of a community project to support the sick in hospitals and nursing homes.

It will also help seniors if our major supermarkets make available ready-to-cook meals.

When the Japanese supermarket Yaohan was in operation here, these cleaned and packed ready-to-cook meals were very popular. Meat and fish packed with vegetables, garlic and ginger enabled consumers to prepare a meal in less than 10 minutes.

Such products may also prove useful for working couples who often have little time to prepare dinner.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, April 12, 2010

VICIOUS ONLINE COMMENTS: Don't hide behind anonymity

Raymond's letter to the New Paper:
My letter on the above matter is published today, Monday 12 April 2010 in the New Paper on page 17. Do check it out.

Reading some of the comments posted in online discussions, I get a feel of how people react to some of the letters in the press.

While some comments are sensible and useful for the Government to review and fine-tune polices, there are also readers who use technology for all the wrong reasons – to humilate, demoralise and demean others.

My intention in raising the plight of the mentally ill and their caregivers over the last five years in the media was to seek understanding and support from the Government and society as a whole.

I have also made some suggestions to improve our mental health care and I am encouraged that some progress has been made.

Just as we promote continous learning, we must also promote continous improvements in all our service sectors. Only then, can we reinvent ourselves to meet the many challenges coming our way.

I wrote a letter to the press recently highlighting the struggles I face as a caregiver to my wife who suffers from schizophrenia and four other illneses. In that letter, I mentioned that she has to take 42 drugs a day to manage her five chronic illnesses. This was to highlight the ardous journey I travel in loving and caring for my wife.

One of the comments posted in cyberscape to that letter was downright vicious.

As usual, this person chose to remain anonymous. This is what he said I should do to my wife: “Taking 42 tablets daily? Even a doctor will get confused. Better euthanise her.”

Hate mail has seen some celebrities commit suicide and we must never allow such behaviour to continue here or it will tear apart the fabric of our society.

If anyone chooses to make such insensitive attacks on vunerable people they must be willing to put down their real name.

And for those who do not feel the suffering of our least privileged, I ask them to take heed of what the Dalai Lama once said: “Our prime purpose in life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, April 5, 2010

Raymond's letter to the Straits Times(ST) Forum Page: Spare a thought for kin of patients

A resident doctor in a nursing home, Dr Tan Chek Wee wrote in to the Straits Times highlighting how family members abuse health-care proffessionals. But the doctor only painted one side of the story. Here's my response to his letter, which is published in the ST today, Monday 5th April 2010,page A18. Check it out.


I refer to Dr Tan Chek Wee's letter last Saturday, “Help caregivers abused by patients, kin”.

While health-care proffesionals face increasing stress from complaints, family members also face anxiety and stress when health-care standards are not up to scratch. Dr Tan has presented one side of the story; let me present the other.

In November 2006, my wife who receives treatment at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to manage her schizophrenia and depression, had to undergo total knee replacement surgery at a public hospital. She also has arthritis and three other chronic illnesses.

As required, I typed out a list of the 42 drugs she was taking, which included 21 psychiatric tablets and gave it to the ward staff. I took pains to explain in detail how the drugs were to be taken. This is because the wrong dosage could result in a relapse of my wife's mental illness, and her full recovery could take as long as a year.

On the first night in the ward, a nurse almost gave her the wrong dosage for one of the critical drugs for her mental illness. If it was not for my checks, my wife could have suffered a relapse. At a result of this, I had no choice but to rush down by taxi everyday before her drugs were given, so I could counter-check her medications. That placed undue stress on me.

I did not make a complaint, but the anaesthetist who understood how difficult it is to manage mental illness cautioned the nurses. For the five days that my wife stayed in hospital, I suffered alone.

So try to understand the anxiety and stress that family members face when service standards are far from satisfactory.

With Singapore striving for excellence in health care, complaints are bound to arise. Feedback helps us to improve the level of service. And even though complaints may arise from time to time, health-care proffesionals should take it as part and parcel of their job.


Raymond Anthony Fernando


Footnote: Many in our society still cannot accept people with mental illness. A few choose to pass the most humilating and cruel remarks about sufferes of mental illness. Like this guy who does not reveal his real name and posted a very wicked remark on the ST online forum, after reading this letter to the ST: He calls himself , KOKOKBIRD. This is what he has said: "Taking 42 tablets daily? Even a doctor will be confused.... Better euthanise her".

We must go all out and shame such unkind people or the mentally ill and ther caregivers will find it so hard to reintegrate back into society.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Families at Risk: Raymond's letter to the Press

Letter to the New Paper : Do more to help those in need

My letter to the New Paper on the above subject is published today on page 29. Check it out!

I refer to the article, “North West CDC seeing more needy families (The New Paper, 24 Mar).

Elected members of parliament and mayors have a moral obligation to serve the needs of all our citizens.

North West District Mayor Teo Hon Pin has been doing a lot of good work to help the needy, including those with mental illness, and I commend for his untiring efforts.

Undoubtedly, Dr Teo Hon Pin will bring a smile on these needy citizens.

Chronic illnesses have affected many Singaporeans across the island and have placed these families at risks.

In Ang Mo Kio where I live, I have seen several people sleeping at bus stops. At times, I have also seen Singaporeans who are mentally ill walking around aimlessly.

These are accidents waiting to happen.

If you visit the Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic before 7am, you will sometimes find find people sleeping overnight at the benches outside the clinic.

A few months ago, I met a couple whose two young children were hungry and had camped overnight at the premises outside this polyclinic.

I asked the mother of the children why they had slept there and she told me that they were homeless.

Out of sympathy for the family, I gave her $10 for breakfast.

For those who do not empathise with Singaporeans in need, I have this message for them: “ A real friend is someone who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”


RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Letter to the New Paper: Caregivers of mentally ill: Provide better support for them

My letter to the New Paper on the above matter is published today, Page 22.

I refer to the report, “ For better or for worse” (The New Paper, Mar 22).

While I have great admiration for Mrs Mary Yap for keeping her marriage vows intact by caring for her mentally ill husband for years, I am deeply disturbed by the lack of support for psychiatric patients and their caregivers.

Looking after a loved one with a psychiatric condition is extremely tough. Caregivers pay a heavy price in terms of financial cost, energy and emotional pain.

Though the Institute of Mental Health has limited funds and resources, it has done its part to provide some measurable support for psychiatric patients and their caregivers.

But in order to better manage mental illness in a first world country like Singapore, the Government must play a leading role in providing better structrual support for caregivers.

Unlike Mrs Yap, family members often stay away from those stricken with mental illness. I view this callous attitude as wilful neglect.

Perhaps it is time the Mental Capacity Act be strengthened so that those who deliberately choose to ignore the needs of the mentally ill can be brought to court.

Mrs Yap mentioned that she has financial problems in looking after her husband. This is a common problem faced by many caregivers as they may have to give up their jobs to be with the patient round the clock.

This is precisely why funds have to be raised on a national level for this group of neglected citizens.

The Government has big plans to spruce up and brighten our HDB flats. I hope that the lives of psychiatric patients and their caregivers can also be spruced up so that they too can live in dignity.


RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Friday, March 12, 2010

Raymond's letter to the New Paper on the JACK NEO LOVE AFFAIR

12th March 2010


“Don't put down a fallen man”

My letter on the Jack Neo Saga is published today in the to the New Paper , Friday 12 March 2010, Page 23.

As I read the many reports about the Jack Neo saga, I won't be surprised if he could be suffering from sex addiction and even depression.

Although I do not condone Jack's flirtatious ways, I am troubled by how netizens are using the Internet for the wrong reasons - to demolish a man who obviously is highly stressed and badly needs help.

Married men going through depression could either lose interest in sex or engage in illicit relationships to spice up their lives.

Depression is a silent killer and we should never feel ashamed to seek help.

More importantly, let us not put down a man when he has fallen by the wayside.

No human being is perfect. Only God is.

To be be able to rebuild his life, Jack should not be afraid to seek treatment for the stresses in his life.

When I was highly stressed at work and home life, I sought treatment at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in 1995.

I have since recovered through medication and counselling, and above all, a few friends who walked alongside me.

Having benefited from my own recovery and that of my wife who was stricken with schizophrenia and depression at the tender age of 17, we have opened our doors to those who have a genuine interest to turn their lives around.

This is one of the reasons why I have become a volunteer at IMH.

Be assured Jack, that I will be more than willing to walk alongside you, your beloved wife, Irene and your four children as you all start to rebuild your lives.

To prevent divorce cases from going up, it is imperative that the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports (MCYS) aggressively promote healthy marriages through talks and workshops.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Thursday, March 11, 2010

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 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
@copyrightraymondfernando2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Helping the mentally ill -Show them we care

My letter to the New Paper was published today , Friday 5 march 2010 on page 29

I refer to the report, “ Man burnt at petrol station ” (The New Paper, 27 Feb).

Like many of my friends, I was both shocked and deeply saddened to read about the horrifying way in which the victim in his early 40s, described by his family to be mentally ill, set fire to himself.

Thirty years ago, an old man who lived in the same rental block where my wife and I, dislosed to my wife that his business had failed. His wife and children then left him.

My wife used to accompany him to the bank to withdraw money for his expenses and would talk to him whenever she had time.

The old man felt loved, but we don't know that he was gradually losing the will to live.

The night before he decided to end it all, he gave my wife a tin of cookies. It was his way of saying thank you to my wife for the love that she gave to him.

A few days ago, the Community Psychiatry Department of Institute of Mental Health invited my wife and I to its Chinese New Year Celebrations.

It was a fun-filled afternoon with good food and good company. What impressed me most was the love and care which the whole team showered on all the patients and caregivers who attended the event.

Sponsors and volunteers came forward and contributed towards the success of the event. They brought a beautiful smile on every one of these citizens who are struggling to cope with mental illness.

The Government for its part can set up nurse stations at community centres where a weekly breakfast can be organised to reach out the vulnerable groups like psychiatric patients and our elderly folks who are often neglected and feel uncared for.

A counsellor can provide a listening ear and secure better support for these groups. This initiative will make it easier to identify those who are at risks of falling into depression and get them all the help they need.

Let us make a concerted effort to save and reclaim lives.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Heartland folk need much help: Raymond's letter to the press

My letter on the above matter is published today in the New Paper, Wednesday 3 march 2010, page 18.

I refer to reader Lionel De Souza's letter, “ There are many who do care” (The New Paper, Mar 2).

The time and efforts put in by Mr De Souza and volunteers from the Barker Road Methodist church to bring love and joy to psychiatric patients at Sunlove Home is generous, and I appreciate that.

But what is needed is for volunteers, including grassroots leaders like Mr De Souza, to reach out to the vulnerable groups living in the heartlands- the elderly, those struggling with mental illness and their caregivers and Singaporeans who are living alone.

To reduce the growing number of sufferers of mental illness and families from alienation and tragedies, we must cast our nets wider.

Recently well-known celebrity Marie Osmond's 18-year-old son, who suffered from depression committed suicide. In his farewell note, he mentioned that he had no friends. He was crying out for help.


This is precisely how people with mental illness feel and it is crucial to reach out to these citizens who feel neglected. It is best if the outreach to these groups is Government-led.

We must get past the stigma of mental illness so that we can start the process of healing. An illness of the mind is very difficult to cope with, especially if the caregiver has to care for his stricken one with no family support. I am speaking from my own experience.

I read this quote from someone on Facebook and it sums exactly how befrienders can help improve the lives of those who are isolated and feel uncared for: “Friends are like street lights along the road, they don't make the distance any shorter but they light up the path and make the walk worthwhile” .

I am not getting the support that I desperately need. So, will Mr De Souza and his volunteers walk alongside my wife and I? Will you befriend us?

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Monday, March 1, 2010

Thank you Rev. Fr Michael Sitaram (Fr Mike) \for your wonderful support!

Dear Rev Fr Mike,

My wife & I would like to record our deepest appreciation to you for the wonderful support that you gave us during the sale of our book- the 2nd collection of children's stories (The glass slippers & other stories for children).

During just 3 masses, the last 102 books were sold and when I came home before the 11am mass, it brought sheer joy on my wife's face. You have done so much for us, Fr Mike and you have made our Lunar New Year this year & Christmas last year so delightful simply because you care for our well being. This is so generous of you.

I also wish to record my heartfelt thanks to Fr Erbin Fernandez who is also a wonderful & caring priest. He knows how to feel the suffering of those who are isolated and lonely.

Cecilia Frances' was also remarkable and the student volunteers she secured for me from the children's liturgy did a fantastic job! It is so encouraging that good values are imparted in our youth by you, Fr Mike and Cecilia.

My appreciation to your support staff- Juliana, Nancy, Elizabeth & Vijaya who provided me with the much needed assistance. Vijaya went the extra mile in preparing nice coffee(On the rocks) & Orange juice(on the rocks) that made me feel so at home. She is such a fine person!

Last but not least, my sincere thanks to your parishioners who supported our books and gave comforting words.

Fr Mike, you & your kind-hearted Catholics have walked alongside us and brought light to us at the end of the dark tunnel that we often travel through. God Bless all of you & I will pray that all of you have good health in the years ahead!

Sincerely,

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Raymond's letter to the New paper: We don't often see people showing care & compassion for mentally ill

My letter on the above matter was published the New Paper today, Saturday 27th Feb 2010.

I refer to the report, “ I don't blame mum, I blame myself” (The New Paper, 25 Feb).

I am glad that Justice Kan Ting Chui has shown compassion in sentencing Madam Goh Hai Eng to only 5 years jail.

I have every confidence that with daily medication in prison, Goh will recover and can be reunited with her family under happier circumstances after she has served her term in jail. Perhaps with good behaviour, she can be released earlier.

Goh's lawyers, Mr Subas Anandan and Mr Sundil Sudheesan who provided legal services to her for free are truly generous.

We don't often see citizens showing care and concern for the mentally ill.

Like Goh, many psychiatric patients and their caregivers are plagued with financial woes. It is crucial for the Government to raise funds for this group of citizens on a national level.

The yellow ribbon project has been highly succesful because there is very strong political support at ministerial level.

I urge the Government to understand the hardship that sufferers of mental illness and their families continue to face in their daily lives.

Do not neglect us for we are also human beings who, like anyone else, need love, understanding and support.

Certaintly, with better support from the Government, more such tragedies can be avoided.

Family members for their part must ensure that their stricken ones do not miss out on their medical appointments and medications.

People with mental illness just need one person to love them and with medication, they will recover- period. My wife who has schizophrenia is a case in point.

With the Mental Capcity Act going into operation on 1st Mar, I encourage patients and their caregivers to have a look at the Lasting Power Of Attorney (LAP) as it helps to give better protection for anyone who becomes mentally incapacitated.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A beautiful & unforgettable dining experience, courtesy of Rose Boon & her charismatic group




“Friends are like street lights along the road, they don't make the distance any shorter but they light up the path and make the walk worthwhile!”

On Tuesday 23rd February 2010, Rose Boon, her sister, Frances and friends Gwen & Jan treated my wife, Doris & I to a sumptuous Lunar New Year Dinner at the Singapore Island Country Club. Rose and her team are members of the charismatic group from the Church of St Ignatius. Rose has always been very supportive to both Doris and I and these thoughtful gestures certainly have helped in my wife's recovery from schizophrenia. Indeed the love and kindness that she has displayed for several years will live in our hearts forever.

This is a strange cpoincidence: Some 30 years ago, during my public relations stint in broadcasting, I was one of the three staff who hosted a lunch for a former VVIP at this prestigious club. And now 30 years later, I sat there tucking in on the delicious dishes, and beautiful memories came streaming back. I never dreamt that I would one day come back to this place and enjoy the lovely ambience and GREAT food, with GREAT fellowship. I was actually a rose among the thorns or should I say a torn among the pretty roses.

Doris loves cooked lobsters, but because we cannot afford this dish, we have opted not to buy it. But through the kindness of the Lord who is the “Listener to every conversation”, Doris was able to enjoy lobsters that were flown in from Boston. This was made possible by Rose and company. The fellowship that night was simply fantastic and when we reached home at 8.45pm Doris slept like a baby – contented, happy, pleased to know that wonderful Catholics sent by the Lord made her Lunar New Year in 2010 so very special. My wife felt so loved and even though her family members do not see the need to spend a few minutes to visit or talk to her, God sent His lovely children in the form of these kind-hearted charismatic members to more than make up for the love that is clearly lacking in my wife's family.

Praise the Lord for you have shown us the Light at the end of the Dark Tunnel!

Sincerely,

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Sunday, February 21, 2010

myLovematters Magazine

myLovematters Magazine


Dear friends,

myLovematters is a magazine in full colour that focuses on healthy relationship, people doing charity work and how LOVE plays a key role in helping all of us to stay committed to our loved ones. My journey in caring for my wife, Doris is highlighted in a 3-page article in the concept issue that just came out in mid-February 2010. It is a lovely magazine and a must-read for all of us who want to build healthy relationships. If any of you are interested to get a copy do contact me(I'm the part-time Freelance Subscription Manager). My email adress is; rafcutie@singnet.com.sg
The cost of one year's subscription (4 issues per year) is $22 (postage included) . Get a glimpse of this magazine at this website: http://www.mylovematters.net/

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Thursday, February 18, 2010

CNA's TV Talking Point on Sunday 21st Feb 2010- The Mental Capacity Act

This Sunday, 21st Feb 2010 at 10.10pm, ChannelNewsAsia will broadcast the popular TV talk show, “Talking Point”. The topic for this Sunday will be about the Mental Capacity Act, which comes into operation on 1st March 2010.

Debra Soon, the host of this programme will have a panel discussion with 3 guests who include:

(A) Lawyer Ms Kuah Boon Theng

(B) Ex: Director of Rainbow Centre, Ms June Tham

(c ) Caregiver Raymond Anthony Fernando


This will be my 6th TV appearance discussing mental illness on National TV. I was told that this programme can also be viewed on the internet and in countries where CNA's programmes are beamed.

Do look out for this programme as it is very insightful!

Sincerely,

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Love conquers all

Having witnessed how my parent's marriage broke down due to my father's womanising ways, I made a vow to myself 35 years ago: The woman I marry, whoever she is, I will love forever. And I would love and care for her in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.

Little did I realise that the day I met my wife, Doris Lau Siew Lang, I would have to fulfill that promise to the letter. Indeed this was the woman that would change my life – dramatically.

Unlike the many girls that I dated, Doris was very down-to-earth. We met as pen pals.

I found her to be sincere and caring. This was the main reason why I accepted her as my wife. As our relationship grew, Doris revealed to me her closely guarded secret: She was stricken with schizophrenia at the tender age of 17. Many people find it hard to believe that I married Doris despite knowing that she has one of the most distressing mental disorders.

But strange as it may sound, in caring for Doris for more than three decades, I have grown to love her more and more each day. I have seen this illness ravage more than half her life and the journey, though very difficult, can be rewarding when I see her enjoy life to the fullest. With my undying love for Doris, she has recovered from her illness and is today, the author of 5 books.

As I celebrate my 60th birthday this Valentine's Day, Doris and I will reflect on the beautiful memories we shared together for 35 years as husband and wife. Certainly, Love conquers all.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

75th Elvis Presley's Anniversary Celebrations

The 75th Elvis Presley's Anniversary Celebrations was organised by the First Singapore Elvis Presley Fan Club at Hotel Royal on Sat 6th Feb 2010. Guest artist, Harvey Mcfadden, Elvis impersonator from the USA performed at this event.