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.


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