Wednesday, October 31, 2012

View issues raised by Singaporeans as feedback, not complaints

In his letter “Void decks (and complaining) are uniquely Singaporean” (The New Paper, Oct 22), reader Wee Hong Giap opined that void decks are a good space to foster community spirit and that Singaporeans complain too much.

First of all, when Singaporeans raised issues that affect their daily living and environment, it must not be viewed as complaints, but rather as feedback. Feedback that can help improve the lives of all our citizens.

Let us not forget that more than 80 per cent of our citizens live in HDB flats and our homes must be a place when we can return to after a hard day’s work to rest and get respite. Children need to study, the elderly sick need to rest.  

While activities such as wedding celebrations can help foster community bonding, void decks should not be used for anything and everything.

In my place, where I live, practically every other month, there is renovation work going on opposite my block or at my block.  And these renovation works can last a month.

Then there are wakes and clan associations that use void decks and basket ball courts that has disrupted the peace and quiet which residents guard so jealousy these days.  And I can tell you that these noise pollutions can sometime take place 7 days a week.

A lady friend of mine who lives near my block told me that because of the smoke that was pouring out from the incense that was being burnt at these clan association activities, she fell sick and had to be hospitalized.

There is a definite need to control excessive noise in the heartlands, and I’d like to make the following suggestions, which I hope the Government will seriously consider for implementation:

 (a) Have funeral wakes and wedding celebration in enclosed areas. For example, build multi-storey funeral parlors similar to the ones at the Singapore Casket Company, and allow wedding celebrations to be held at Community Centres to which affordable prices can be charged.

(b) As double-glazed windows can help to reduce noise levels significantly, HDB can offer this option to citizens applying for flats. It cost less than $1,000 to install this in a room.

( c ) The renovation noise in HDB flats can be unbearable even with ear plugs or installation of double-glazed windows.  Hence, it may be necessary to restrict these renovation works up to 2pm on weekdays with none carried out on weekends and public holidays.



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Caregiver burnout: Raymond is interviewed on Radio- 938 LIVE

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) has launched a set of self-help solutions for caregivers to cope with the emotional and social stress of caring for the elderly with dementia. Recently, Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor, also emphasised the importance of strengthening access to a strong network of support service for caregivers to manage their stress and become more effective. What's really needed to care for caregivers. Find out more from Raymond Fernando, caregiver to his wife who suffers from schizophrenia.

Click under: Caregivers

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dismissal of NTU Asst Director Ms Amy Cheong : Raymond writes to the press

Letter to TNP: Govt should address excessive noise in housing estates

Raymond’s letter on the above matter is published in The New Paper today, Wednesday 10th Oct 2012, page 21.  

While it was dreadfully wrong for Ms Amy Cheong to pass insensitive remarks that has caused disharmony in the community, I share the sentiments expressed Mr Noor Mohamed Marican, legal adviser and council member of the Inter-Religious Organisation Singapore, that the sacking was too harsh.  

And I fully agree with him that the posting was done on the spur of the moment.

Perhaps, the NTUC assistant director for membership could have been sent for intensive counselling to get her to see the importance of living harmoniously in a multi-cultural society like Singapore. 

After counselling, NTUC could have got her involved in Muslim community projects where she can see first-hand the rich culture which our Malay friends have inherited.

I have many Malay friends, some of whom were my former national service mates. They helped me a lot as I was weak in certain areas. I have fond memories of all of them.

I believe that Ms Cheong’s remarks were out of frustration rather than malice.

Imagine having to go through the pressures of our stressful working life and then coming home to find that it’s not possible to rest because of the noise.

Noise pollution can not only increase our stress levels but can also cause heart problems and other health issues.

The Government needs to address excessive noise in our housing estates, especially since the population is set to rise to six million.

Maybe, funeral wakes and wedding celebrations can be held at enclosed designated areas. Community Clubs should open its doors for wedding receptions and charge affordable prices. 

There must be some control over excessive noise because a conducive living environment is vital for a healthy lifestyle.

It is futile for the Government to keep saying that Singaporeans must manage their health to reduce medical expenses, if our environment does not pave the way for healthy living.


P.S: (1)The world is so unpredictable. Every one of us makes mistakes, no one is perfect. Only God is. The Singapore Heart which I would like to see is that we are able to forgive, live and let live. We are on a small tiny island and we are all brothers and sisters. Let’s show compassion, forgiveness and don’t hold grudges. Forgiveness means releasing the mind and heart from past hurts, from resentments to which we have a right in order to move our own lives forward.

 (2) This noise pollution is also affecting the place where I live in Ang Mo Kio. Right in front of my block, workers are digging the road to lay some cables, and the noise is terrible. Even on Sundays, they are carrying out these works, causing a din. In my block, there is renovation going on, endless noise. All this excessive noise is taking place at the same time. There is very poor coordination between Govt agencies, leaving residents with no peace of mind and at the mercy of these contractors.

(3)  I have to write my books late into the night because of this noise pollution and because my wife who is immobile needs my care. She is also vulnerable into falling into relapses because of her schizophrenia illness. Pratically every month, there is renovation works being carried out opposite my block because housing agents are pushy in their sales tactics enticing house owners to sell their flats. They shove leaflets into HDB flat owners gates and doors. This is also a form of littering. The Govt needs to put a stop to this. In any event, flats are built for people to live in and have respite after a hard days work. It is not for making a quick buck.

(4) Some students study at void decks near my place, a tutor teaches a student 2 blocks from my block. Void decks can serve such purposes.
(5) In Hong Kong, the Govt has made it a ruling that all renovation works must be carried out on weekdays up to 2pm only and NOT after that. This should also be the case here in Singapore.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Raymond's letter to the press: Tackle rising number of suicide attempts head-on

My letter on the above matter is published in MediaCorp's TODAY Newspaper on Tuesday 9th Oct 2012.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly one million people die from suicide each year. Depression is projected to rank second as a cause of global disability burden by 2020.

While some people may take a critical view, we must understand that those who commit suicide do so because they feel isolated and see death as the only option to end their suffering.

To save lives, they must be given the opportunity to talk openly about their suicidal thoughts. Studies have shown that hopelessness is a strong predictor of suicide.

It is never easy to understand what pushes so many individuals to take their own lives. But if we show that we care and offer a good support system, it could at least reduce suicide numbers.

Last year, 992 people here, both locals and foreigners, were arrested for attempted suicide, a five-year high. I feel that some measures could be taken to bring down our suicide rates.First, a task force including the police, counsellors, Members of Parliament, psychologists, psychiatrists, as well as ordinary citizens who have overcome attempted suicide and are now leading normal lives, could be formed to tackle the issue.

We should tap those who have overcome attempted suicide so that they may share their life experience with those who may be suicidal.

We should form associations for foreigners to participate in activities, so that they feel welcome, and not lonely. These associations should have a counsellor whom troubled people can approach for assistance.

It should be made known that there is a crisis hotline and that there is always help out there. At the same time, it is better to have professionals reach out to the community. Face-to-face interaction can make a difference in saving lives.

Having on-site systems can ensure that a proper care plan can be put in place for a suicidal person.

To this end, it would be useful for befrienders or volunteers who are trained in crisis management, or have some knowledge of psychology, to keep in close contact with the suicidal person/s once their crisis has passed.

Ultimately, friends can also provide vital support in the recovery process, and we should do all we can to help save and reclaim lives.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jail not the option, psychiatric homes run by SAMH is

Jail not the option, psychiatric homes run by SAMH is:
An open appeal to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong & his ministers

The report, “Only jail will keep her alive” (The New Paper, September 24) clearly demonstrates how difficult the caregiving journey can be for family members looking after the mentally ill.

It must be extremely stressful for Mandy’s father to worry about his daughter’s frequent attempts to harm herself, and more so when there are mounting bills to pay for her hospitalisation in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).  And medical fees these days don’t come cheap.

With rising costs here, many caregivers have little choice but to leave their stricken ones alone at home and go out to earn a decent living. Mandy’s parents have to undertake physically demanding jobs – her dad; James is a lorry driver and her mother, a dish collector in a foodcourt. 

On top of that, Mandy’s father has to pay for his son’s university education.  With the son having to stay focused on his studies, there is hardly anyone to take care of Mandy.  This is, unfortunately, the predicament which many caregivers fall into, and it’s only practical that they be given support.

While hospitalising Mandy in IMH each time she attempts suicide many be necessary, it cannot be the long-term solution. (Mandy has attempted suicide 10 times).

 It is also futile for professionals to keep reminding caregivers to take care of themselves so that they do not suffer caregiver burnout, yet nothing concrete has been done to support this group.

Surely there must be better way to help this troubled teenager and her caregivers, and all those in their predicament.

The Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) manages psychiatric homes in Pelangi village and even in Bukit Gombak where those who have been abandoned by their families can be given shelter, food and care.  Although Mandy has not been abandoned by her family, some flexibility should be exercised in cases like this.  

IMH must work in tandem with our mental health care providers to provide the vital support for both patients and their caregivers. 

I urge both IMH and the SAMH to look into Mandy’s case compassionately so that her dad can have some peace of mind. Let us not forget that being a lorry driver calls for concentration on the roads, and James needs to stay focused while earning a living.

It is encouraging that the Prime Minister and his team wants to inculcate compassion and care in our society through the Singapore Heart. So it’s only fitting that those who are disadvantaged and marginalized are not left to feel uncared for.  This is not what an inclusive society is all about.

Leaving the teenager, Mandy who is mentally retarded in prison will only worsen her condition, as imprisoning a person can do a lot of damage. For isolation makes a person to feel unwanted, uncared and unloved.

Like the late Mother Teresa once said: “The biggest disease in the world today is not tuberculosis or leprosy, but the feeling of being unwanted.”


Reply from MOH on 3rd Oct 2012:

Dear Mr Fernando,

We refer to your email to the Ministry of Health.

We have taken note of your feedback for future review.

Thank you.


Yours sincerely,
Ho Mei Xian
for Quality Service Manager
Ministry of Health, Singapore