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.”


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.


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.


Thursday, March 11, 2010


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

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.


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?


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!


Raymond Anthony Fernando