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.


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.


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.