By Raymond Anthony Fernando, Advocate for the mentally ill
I refer to the report in The New Paper(TNP), “He looked like he was possessed” (The New Paper, July 4).
Misconceptions about mental illness are pervasive, and the lack of understanding can have serious consequences on psychiatric patients who often are shunned and left to fend for themselves. It is happening here in our heartlands.
One of the misconceptions of mental illness is that people believe that the sufferers are possessed. Dispelling these misconceptions through on-going public education and getting patients the support they so badly need is a powerful step towards eradicating the stigma and allaying the fears surrounding brain disorders.
Next comes support for their family members who will undoubtedly be groping in the dark in trying to cope with a loved one stricken with mental illness.
There has been a surge in the number of people grappling with mental illness in our heartlands and these need to be put in check, otherwise we will create enclaves in our society, leaving the mentally ill and the caregivers ostracized from society.
A couple of weeks ago, there were two TNP reports of men stripping themselves naked in public areas. These are obviously clear signs that the mind is deeply troubled. I’m sure there are ways to help these stressed-out individuals cope.
The Institute of Mental Health(IMH) already have their hands full and are doing their part to treat patients who are willing to come forward for treatment. So we need the community to do their share in helping people cope with the stresses of life.
Besides on-going public education on mental illness, I suggest that the government through their respective Members of Parliament (MP) appoint block leaders in their respective constituencies to help residents cope with the onslaught of mental illness.
If need be, the block leaders can be paid an allowance and they can serve a couple of blocks where residents can touch base with them if and when they discover that anyone is behaving in a less than normal way. Needless to say, the block leaders must be trained in basic mental health care.
Block leaders can be either grassroots leaders or activists serving the MPs. Once every MP in Singapore has compiled a list of these block leaders, they can send their names to IMH or the Singapore Mental Health Association so that these mental health providers are fully aware that the appointed block leaders are there to partner them in helping to encourage treatment.
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO