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




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