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.


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.


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.


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.


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.