Friday, January 18, 2013

Recognise enlightened employers who hire recovering psychiatric patients

I refer to last week’s letter “Address stigma of mental illness early on” by reader Kwan Jin Yao in MediaCorp’s TODAY newspaper, and fully agree with his views. 

People with a mental illness need the same understanding and support given to people with a physical illness.  A mental illness is no different-it is not an illness for which anyone should be blamed. 

Mental illnesses cause a great deal of suffering to those experiencing them, as well as their families and friends. Furthermore, these problems appear to be increasing. According to the World Health Organisation, depression will be one of the biggest health problems worldwide by the year 2020.

The social stigma attached to mental illness remains the biggest obstacle in getting sufferers of mental illness to come forward for treatment.  There are very few enlightened employers in Singapore who will hire recovering psychiatric patients, and unfortunately, many people do not declare that they have a mental illness for fear of being unable to secure that much-need job.  A job that can help pay for their medications and treatment.  A job that can help them reintegrate into society.  And most certainly, a job that gives them a sense of worthiness. 

If ex-convicts are given second chances, then why can’t recovering psychiatric patients be given the same opportunities to rebuild their lives?  We must create an environment where everyone has a place in society. Where everyone feels wanted.

I know of patients who hide in the toilet to take their medications because they are worried that if their colleagues or bosses find out that they are suffering from mental illness, they may either lose their jobs or their careers are frozen.

It will be helpful if there is an award system at a national level to recognise enlightened employers who are prepared to hire recovering psychiatric patients. 

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

Raymond Anthony Fernando


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Human waste horror in Tao Payoh : Educate to remove stigma of mentally-ill

Read Raymond Anthony Fernando’s letter to the press today, Wed 2nd Jan 2013 on page 19.

I refer to the report, “Human waste horror” (The New Paper, Dec 28).

A person who splashes human waste and paint on neighbours’ doors and surrounding areas is obviously not in the correct state of mind, and desperately needs help. 

In the past, because of lack of public education on mental illness, many people believed that when someone displays bizarre behaviour, they are either possessed by evil spirits or cursed by witchcraft.

Even today, some people unable to recognise the symptoms of mental illness still take those who behave abnormally to faith healers, mediums, magicians and bomohs.   As a result, treatment is delayed and the illness worsens.  

Some hide the mental sickness of their family members because they are in denial. 

This is partly caused by the stigma in our society that prevents us from accepting those with mental illnesses. 

We must address this.

People fear what they don’t understand.  This is why on-going public education on mental illness is necessary to overcome the misconceptions.  

Our mental health providers must educate the community and the family members to develop a positive attitude towards the mentally ill.

They need to be equipped with coping strategies and problem-solving techniques and see first-hand how many who have sought treatment recover. 

We need to inspire, motivate and encourage those struggling with the onslaught of mental illness to see the importance of treatment.

Members of the community, HDB, town councils, Community Development Councils and even Parliament must have training on basic mental health.   

The unsocial behaviour on the part of the woman who hurled buckets of faeces and urine of homes of four neighbours over five months, if left unchecked, will cause further stigmatisation of the mentally ill. 

This is unfair to patients who seek treatment and function normally – just like you and me.  

I believe laws should empower the authorities to impose mandatory treatment on those who are in dire need of psychiatric care. 

This is the practice in many well developed countries.

Let us manage mental illness before it manages us.