Thursday, September 22, 2011

DJ Glenn Ong's insensitive and hurtful comments have deeply hurt psychiatric patients and their caregivers

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all”

- Former US President Bill Clinton -

I just could not believe my eyes when I read the report in The New Paper about DJ Glenn Ong's degrading comments about the mentally ill (“Put these mad dogs to sleep, TNP, Sept 20.) Ong's offensive and insulting comments has hurt many people, including caregivers like myself who have the courage and conviction to care for their stricken ones despite the journey being an arduous and lonely one. Lonely and arduous, partly because insulting comments about the mentally ill continues to make it practically impossible for society to accept that people with mental illness are also human and need love, understanding and support -Just like anyone else.
People with mental illness have been unfairly labelled psycho, mad, freak, siow and what have you. In making reference to psychiatric patients, DJ Ong humiliates the mentally ill by going on air and suggesting that, “If you have to put these mad dogs to sleep, then you should.” When a conversation only focusses on negative comments, you will invite more and more humiliating remarks.
I am perplexed that such hurtful and offensive comments against the mentally ill can be allowed to be aired on a national broadcasting station during prime time when listenership is high. These remarks Ong mentioned on air could send the wrong signal to the public - That the mentally ill are all trouble makers? This is far from true.
At a time when the Government wants to build a gracious, cohesive and inclusive society where every citizen matters, such behaviour on the part of this DJ is totally unacceptable.
Let us not forget that social stigma can cause low-esteem for the sufferers and may become a barrier to everyday opportunities and activities, including jobs and education.
Broadcasters have a moral duty to inform, educate and entertain its listeners and viewers. In highlighting two cases of mental patients causing disruptions which DJ Ong encountered, what was Ong trying to put across?
Mental illness is clearly a misunderstood illness in many parts of the world- Singapore included. When people don't understand mental illness, they become bias towards the sufferers. This is why promoting education on mental illness is relevant to everyone. But attitudes must change, and this is where the media plays an important role.
The media must be held accountable because if it portrays people with mental illness inaccurately, such stereotyping makes it harder to change mindsets. In America, psychiatric patients are major contributors to American life - from the arts to the sciences, from medicine to entertainment to professional sports.
When educating the public, the presenter/s needs to present different perspectives on any issue. In the case of psychiatric patients, there are many who, with treatment, can go on to lead a perfectly normal life. This was not highlighted. Why? Why only paint one side of the story?
Social stigma can cause low-esteem for mentally ill people and may become a barrier to everyday opportunities and activities, including jobs and education.
I have gone on national TV, radio and in the press to speak about my wife's battle with schizophrenia and how I have helped her to move on in life; using the literary skills that she possess (My wife is an author of 6 books). I tap on her strengths; not on her weakness. I'm proud of my wife and I would like her to be a role model for others in her condition to emulate, so that those who are living in the shadow of life will one day get to see “light at the end of the dark tunnel.”
I have spoken candidly about my wife's illness, not because I want sympathy, but because I want acceptance, just like all in my wife's condition long for. I have put in tremendous effort coupled with so much emotional pain and suffering to help my wife in her “recovery” and I certainly do not want such negative and insensitive remarks on the part of DJ Glenn Ong to demolish what I have built over the years.
World Mental Health Day is just around the corner - 10 October 2011, so please spare a thought for psychiatric patients and their caregivers who are one of the most neglected in our society.
I look forward to DJ Ong's apology.
Raymond Anthony Fernando
Caregiver & Mental Health  Activist
Raymond's website:

This article is  also  available on The Online Citizen

(Raymond's interview on Open Beast (U.S. website) - click on link below 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mental illness on Channel NewsAsia- 22 Sept 2011

My wife, Doris and I will be appearing on TV -Channel NewsAsia on Thursday 22nd September 2011 at around 8.30pm( slightly after the news in brief). We will be in this 2nd TV episode under the new series of the popular programme - Asia Exposed. This new series begins on 15th Sept 2011 and is on every Thursday. So,keep a date with us- Thursday 22nd Sept at 8.30pm, CNA. We are featured about 5 minutes in this programme, talking about Doris' battle with schizohrenia & depression. The whole show is about 30 minutes and has others speaking about mental illness.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Caregiver Raymond Anthony Fernando's wife falls - Urgent & desperate plea for help

11th September 2011

Mr Sam Tan

Mayor - Central Singapore CDC

Dear Mr Tan,

Caregiver Raymond Anthony Fernando's wife falls - Urgent & desperate plea for help
At 11.15pm on Saturday night, 10th Sept 2011, my wife, Doris Lau who has advanced arthritis fell down when she tried to go to the toilet. This is the third time she has fallen down due to the weakness in her knees. It took me one solid hour to get her back into the bed because she is over 85 kilos. She now has bruises on her hands and on her knees. She also hit her head causing a bump there and her neck is painful due to the fall. I burst out in tears when that happened. I am in severe emotional pain & deeply distressed. There is absolutely no one I can turn to during such instances. Despite my pleading so much for help, through the media & other avenues, I am not getting the help/assistance which I desperately need. I am at wits end trying to get support.

Besides advanced arthritis, my wife suffers from a severe mental disorder- schizophrenia & depression that has ravaged her life for 40 years. In addition she has 4 other chronic illness which sees me having to bring her for hospitals visits/clinics at least 8 times a month. Because of the severe pain she is enduring from her advanced arthritis condition, there is a very high risk of her relapsing from her mental illness. It has happened more than twice and she had to end up being hospitalised in IMH. The costs is very high - physical, financial & emotional.
Our mental health care system needs a major overhaul because the focus is on the patient & the caregiver is conveniently forgotten. This is one reason why the illness is spreading- like wild fire.
After my wife fell down, I gave her Holy Water (that my Parish Priest gave me) to drink, placed it on her bruises and pray that she will be ok. It is extremely heart-wrenching to see my beloved wife go through this. I am worried sick that the next fall could be fatal because she is at fall risks. Or that she will be paralysed if she falls as there is a metal in her left leg following a total knee replacement that was carried out in 2006. This deep worry of her falling and hurting herself any other time just cannot go on.
I need to go out & buy food, do all her errands, sell my books to provide for the multiple needs of my wife and I do not have any peace of mind whatsoever. In such a scenario, the stress level on me - as a caregiver increases ten fold.

Attempts to get help from MOH, IMH or other providers is of no use. They just don't care!

I desperately need support especially when I'm not in the house for someone to be with Doris so that she is safe. I cannot depend on our family members because the reality is that when you are looking after a loved one with mental illness, you are all alone in this world.

Mr Sam Tan, the CDC which you are now heading needs to reach out to our marginalised communities, who undoubtedly include the mentally ill & their caregivers. Dr Teo Hon Pin has been doing a lot to help sufferers of mental illness & their families. I pray that you can do the same. For it is the only decent thing to do because we are also human beings who need love, understanding, acceptance and support.

Due to the lack of support for people with mental illness, I honestly do not feel like a Singaporean any more. We can never be an inclusive society if we do not give the support to those who need help the most. As Mother Theresa once said: "The biggest disease today is not tuberculosis or leprosy, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”

And my wife and I, like many other mental psychiatric patients and their families feel the same way- Unwanted.

Thank you & God Bless!


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Caregiver & spouse to Doris
cc: Prime Minister