Friday, March 25, 2011

Talented psychiatric patients : Set up museum space for their work

My letter on the above subject was published in The New Paper today- Friday 25 March 2011, page 20.

I refer to the report, “He paints to save his mind” (The New Paper, March 20).

Some of our psychiatric patients are very artistic - as with the case of Mr Sim, a long-staying patient of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).

I have also seen how a volunteer art therapist at the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) has trained his clients to excel in art - paintings, pottery and other types of artwork. The paintings are impressive.

Although IMH and SAMH has been supportive in giving their clients a chance to excel in art, we could also explore other opportunities and platforms for them to gain greater exposure.

Some of the artistic talents of these clients are displayed periodically at public forums and other related events.

After these events are over, people tend to forget that there are indeed such patients who can excel in life.

Government agencies can play an important role in helping to destigmatise mental illness.

To this end, I suggest that our national museum allocate a space within their premises that can permanently display the artistic talents of creative psychiatric patients?

This proposed sponsored art gallery will not only allow these patients to earn a decent living, but will send a powerful message - mental illness can be treated.

SAMH and IMH should also explore collaboration between their clients and patients or ex-patients who write poetry.

Then produce a book, Poetic Tapestry that combines colourful paintings matched with creative poems.

The sponsored book can then be sold and the proceeds divided among the clients who created the book and SAMH or IMH.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Would prizes encourage more gracious behaviour?

A pregnant lady ask for a seat on the MRT train and gets scolded by an old man.
Raymond comes out in support of the lady. - Here is my reply- published in MediaCorp's TODAY newspaer- Sat 19 March 2011.

I refer to reader Joanne Yeo Swee Tiangs' letter, "Pregnant commuter ask for a seat- and gets scolded" (March 16). I am shocked, saddened and ashamed. I agree with Ms Yeo that public transport operators should work closely with the Government to promote social graciousness.

It looks like all the efforts to promote civic mindedness and courtesy on public transport are not working. Punishing a person with fines or stiffer penalties could cause resentment and bitterness. I propose that the Land Transport Authority, in collaboration with SMRT and SBS Transit, introduce a "role model commuters" scheme in which gracious commuters who willingly offer their seats to the elderly, pregnant women, the disabled and the sick, and even help them get off the buses and trains, can be rewarded.

An annual lucky draw can be held, in which these role models can stand a chance to win sponsored prizes and free travel on board MRT trains and buses. Commuters can nominate those who have acted graciously on board public transport systems, and they too can stand to win prizes.

Photographs of winners can be put up at MRT stations and bus interchanges. The publicity material can read: "Act graciously and stand a chance to win attractive prizes." With this in place, I have every confidence that in time, more graciousness will be displayed on board MRT trains and buses, leaving reserved seats to be set aside for those who need it most, like Ms Yeo.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Friday, March 18, 2011

Japan's monster tsunami a 'wake-up call' to people : Raymond Anthony Fernando gives his views in The Catholic News

My letter on the above matter is published in The Catholic News. Look out for it  this weekend - Saturday 19th/20th March 2011.

Could massive destruction of the Earth and seabed be the cause of quakes and tsunamis?

I refer to the several reports in the media on the monster tsunami that hit Japan on Friday, March 11.

I am deeply saddened by the loss of lives, property and infrastructures. My heart goes out to the Japanese people, and I hope that many lives can be saved through rescue efforts. Undoubtedly, it is going to take years before the Japanese economy can recover.

The tsunami disaster that hit Asia in 2004 saw 230,000 people, including women and children, killed and the livelihoods of millions destroyed in over 10 countries. They have all perished in a most cruel way.

Despite God giving us such a beautiful world, man continues to pollute the environment. When God gave us this Earth, He created man in his own image and to be the custodian of all living things.

Despite this God-given role, almost every day, the newspapers are full of reports of wars, terrorists' bombings, power struggles, corruption and greed either directly affecting or insidiously taking control of our lives.

While there are wealthy countries in the world, there are still many countries in abject poverty that have increasing numbers of children that are homeless, hungry and have no education.

It is apparent that man has not been taking his responsibility seriously enough to ensure peace on Earth.

I am no engineer, but my gut feeling tells me that the massive pounding and hammering of bombs during raging wars and conflicts, nuclear testing and terrorists' bombings in many parts of the world, could cause much stress to the seabed, making it unstable. It is similar to volcanoes that erupt - too much stress and it will snap.

Such disasters also take their toll on the mind.

According to experts, by the year 2020, depression is going to become the second highest disability worldwide. This prediction is worrying.

However, we have also seen that out of such human tragedies, it is the milk of human kindness that has united people together, against the odds. It is encouraging to read of reports that 45 countries have stepped forward to help Japan in search and rescue missions.

Now, if only countries worldwide can adopt this positive attitude of supporting one another, we will definitely see a much more peaceful and happy world.

World leaders and politicians must not just tackle climate change, but must also go out of their way to find peaceful solutions to conflicts that may arise from time to time in many parts of the world.

Church leaders worldwide could also play a part in influencing politicians to be more tolerant in adopting peaceful resolutions to conflicts.

If this second tsunami is not a wake-up call, then I just don't know what is.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Singapore 560601

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tidal Waves, Tidal Graves: The Japanese tsunami

The ground has been shaken

The shorelines have changed

The massive destruction

From the furious tidal waves...

That brings tidal graves

The seas that has given sustenance to many

Has now become angry

Thousands have been left homeless

Thousands have died

Millions -worldwide have cried

The nuclear crisis deepens,

The death toll is set to rise

Even from here in Singapore,

I can hear their cries

Is there no end to this nightmare?

Save them, my Lord, I declare

For YOU will surely care

Strangely, through this calamity,

Nations become united

In a world that is often divided

Donations and help is pouring in every hour, every minute

People from across the globe doing a kind deed- bit by bit

We must have unity and love for everyone on earth

Weed out selfishness in our lives

Stretch out you hand

Do it whenever you can

For GOD moves in strange and mysterious ways

And from HIS love and teachings, we must never stray


Raymond Anthony Fernando


Friday, March 11, 2011

Caregivers Registry- Raymond writes 2 letters to the press

Yesterday's The New Paper reported 2 deaths in Sengkang- one a wheelchair-bound 56 woman who was found hanged and the other her elder son, 31, who was mentally disabled. Such tragedies will continue if proactive measures are not put in place to save and reclaim lives.

Here are my 2 letters:

(1) Raymond's letter to The New Paper: Set up registry for caregivers

This letter was published in The New Paper on Friday11th March 2011- page 22.

Recently Nominated MP Laurence Wee suggested that the Government consider setting up a registry for caregivers.

I fully support the idea and hope that the Government can implement it as many caregivers are in dire need of support.

Caregivers who undergo tremendous stress in looking after their sick relatives need a voice in Parliament to speak of their plight, and I am encouraged that Mr Wee has had the courage and conviction to do so.

The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, and people who devote themselves to the unpaid care of a chronically ill or disabled family member certainly could do with more assistance.

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong also mentioned that more help could be given for caregivers.

If the Government accepts Mr Wee's suggestion of a caregivers registry, it will be easier to identify those who have made sacrifices in caring for their sick relatives and then provide them with the much-needed support.

Caregivers could be given an option of registering at this proposed registry, as some may not want to be identified.


(2) Raymond's letter to MediaCorp's TODAY Newspaper: Registry makes it easier to help caregivers in need

This letter was published in the online section of MediaCorp's TODAY Newspaper on Monday 7th March 2011.

Recently, Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Laurence Wee suggested in Parliament that the Government should consider setting up a registry for caregivers. I fully support Mr Wee's idea and hope that the Government can implement this suggestion as many caregivers are in dire need of support.

The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming and people who devote themselves to the unpaid care of a chronically ill or disabled family member certainly could do with more assistance. Caregiving can take a heavy toll if caregivers don’t get adequate support. I have been in this situation for 37 years.

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, in a post-budget 2011 dialogue session with 200 grassroots leaders last month, mentioned that one area which he felt was missing in the Budget was more help for caregivers.

I am glad that both SM Goh Chok Tong and Mr Wee understands our everyday struggles. If the Government the suggestion of a caregivers registry, it will be so much easier to identify those who have made sacrifices in caring for their sick relatives and then provide them with the much-needed support.

Caregivers could be given an option of registering, as some may not want to be identified.


Let us be inspired by what Saint Augustine once said: “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like”.