Saturday, January 23, 2010

Give more help for the mentally ill and their caregivers

I refer to the report, “Who will care for her when I'm gone? (The New Paper, 16 Jan).

Bipolar sufferer Madam Goh Hai Eng is not alone in her fears. As a caregiver to my wife who has struggled with schizophrenia for 35 years I too, worry a great deal as to who will take care of her if I should pass on before my wife. There needs to be better support for caregivers whose lives are already greatly strained by loved ones suffering from mental illnesses.

Certainly this tragedy involving a psychiatric patient is bound to further stigmatise the mentally ill. Further more, if there are more cases like this one, enclaves will form in our neighbourhood and sufferers of mental illness and their caregivers will continue to be shunned and isolated. As it is, there have been calls by neighbours to lock up people suffering from mental illness as they are perceived to be trouble makers. But this is certainly not the right solution.

Patients suffering from mental illness are always plagued with financial problems. While charitable foundations raise funds on a national level for various illnesses, such as kidney failure and other physical ailments, mental illnesses do not receive similar attention and support. I myself have made several appeals for money to be raised for the mentally ill, but my pleas have gone unheard. Yet this is a group that is in dire need of financial assistance.

Despite the many successes Singapore have achieved, the numerous 'number one' accolades – the best airport, the best port facilities and so on, our country and civil society comes up dramatically short when it comes to the mental health system.

Everyone of us, including all government agencies and mental health providers must play their part in helping psychiatric patients and their families. The Ministry of Health (MOH) cannot do it alone.

We must encourage treatment and remove the stigma that is attached to mental illness. I have always felt that IMH should change its name to “Mind Wellness Institute” (MWI) instead of the Institute of Mental Health. Avoid using the word “mental”.

Perhaps, incentives could be given so that patients are more willing to continue treatment or laws need to be changed so that IMH can be empowered to bring people suffering from mental illness for mandatory treatment.


No comments: