Friday, August 31, 2012

The National Conversation in Singapore- ASK THE PM

Dear PM Lee,

Mental illness - a taboo subject which is often not talked about, discussed and swept under the carpet.  Yet from the several reports I read in the press, many of our citizens are struggling to cope with the onslaught of mental illness that includes hoarding, depression, schizophrenia and many others. Our suicide rates have also gone up.  People can no longer control their temper. You may recall a couple on a motorbike who bashed up a taxi driver who almost collided with them.  Stress levels are also going up and you many have read about the recent case in which a 25-year-old kindergarten teacher was charged in court for abusing a 5-year-old child that includes asking her to strip herself and stand in front of the whole class.

Like it or like mental illness is spreading – into our schools, our offices, in the community and even in churches. So we should not be ashamed to address it and find solutions to help the sufferers and their caregivers cope. I have never heard you talk about mental illness, PM Lee which is really disappointing.  Why do we want to avoid this issue when it is becoming a big social problem here and causing enclaves in our society?

Singapore does not have a good structural support system that can help caregivers cope when there is a loved one struggling with mental illness. For instance when a family member who suffers a relapse of mental illness and is hospitalized, no one rallies around the caregiver & help him/her cope. The focus is always on the patient and the caregiver is clean forgotten; and suffers all alone. I have gone through this predicament umpteen times.  

A few years ago, I sent you a published press letter in which I offered to train grassroots leaders (given my 37 years experience in helping my wife cope with schizophrenia) all over Singapore on mental illness so that they can help the patients and their family members cope better. You were receptive to the idea, PM Lee and sent a direction to MCYS & MOH. Until today, no one has taken up the offer.

I hope that you can enlighten me as well as the thousands out there who are voiceless to bring hope to this group. Thank you, PM Lee.



Raymond Anthony Fernando






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