Sunday, March 24, 2013

Letter to VOICES: Health hazards from food consumption

My letter to MediaCorp’s TODAY Newspaper on the above matter is published on Sunday 24th March 2013

Many people are unaware that hot food packed in Styrofoam boxes can cause health problems. Styrofoam contains the neurotoxins styrene and benzene, which are widely accepted to be carcinogens.

These toxins can leach into food that is acidic, warm, alcoholic or oily and into the environment after exposure to rain and other weather. It is critical that people do not microwave food in Styrofoam or put hot food into Styrofoam containers.

The health authorities should remind all food suppliers, including food vendors in markets and coffee shops, to gradually replace Styrofoam boxes with other packaging, such as brown paper wrapped with a thin plastic sheet.

Some health-conscious organisations use plastic boxes of a similar material to milk bottles for babies. People could be advised to buy these less hazardous boxes to use for takeaway food.

Another health hazard is dented tinned goods. Charitable organisations and supermarkets often give tinned goods to the needy, but if these are dented, they can be detrimental to a person’s health.

A polyclinic doctor once advised me to stop taking dented tinned goods after she discovered that it led to my food poisoning.




An open letter to Mr Heng Swee Keat Education Minister/Minister in charge of the National Conversation

An open letter to Mr Heng Swee Keat Education Minister/Minister in charge of the National Conversation on support for the mentally ill

"The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others."
                                           -Mohandas Gandhi-
Sunday 24th March 2013

Dear Mr Heng,

When I spoke to you at the very first Singapore conversation, you told me that you fully understood how hard it is for caregivers of the mentally ill and you promised to look into the welfare of this marginalized community.  I would like to believe you, Mr Heng because you do look like someone who cares.

I would like you to read my report to the Transport & Health Ministers and copied to the PM.  

Click here to read:

Reports of the mentally ill in today’s Sunday Times

Interesting reports in today’s Sunday Times, one of which touches on volunteers who are needed for those who feel unloved and uncared for –like the mentally ill. How true, the mentally ill are in dire need of love and support.

When animals are killed as was in the recent case of the lady who was very unhappy when a dog was put to sleep by the AVA, there was big uproar on social media. The lady was right in speaking out because God wants us to love all living things.

Yet when a 28-year-old woman was killed so tragically by a lorry driver in Buangkok Green just outside IMH, how many people felt her pain and that of her family? How many people battled an eye lid?  Human beings must be loved just like animals. I wonder what kind of society we are breeding when people do not know how to feel for this marginalized community?

People have asked me this question:  “Do you know if the woman who was killed in the accident at Buangkok Green was an IMH patient?”

My answer to them   “I am not sure if the lady who was killed was a patient or a staff member. But does that matter? In any event no one is telling. We are talking about human lives here being lost – and so tragically at that.  Must another tragic accident take place before someone acts?”

Government agencies need to respond to letters in the press. If I write a letter to the press, it is only proper that a reply is given back to the press.

The MOH & others, including PM Lee are repeatedly saying that everyone must be responsible in taking care of their own health. Let me assure all of you, that NO ONE chose to have mental illnesses. Some, like my wife, who has battled schizophrenia for 40 years, was born with it.  Mental illness is sometimes genetic. In the case of her advanced arthritis condition that leaves her mobility severely impaired, the Senior Consultant TTSH told me that some of the psychiatric drugs are causing bone degeneration. So I checked with my wife’s psychiatrist, a Senior Consultant at IMH, who told me, “There must be a trade-of”.

Does she, Mr Heng, choose to have these chronic illnesses? So let’s be sensitive to the feelings of these patients as well as their caregivers.

I’m not too sure if I want to participate in the next Singapore Conversation because in an honestly, Mr Heng, I find that the Govt. is just not listening. And it lacks understanding.


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Cc: Health Ministers, PM Lee & President Tony Tan .

Rachel Chang -ST


Thursday, March 21, 2013

cc: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

21st March 2013

Dear Mr Lui Tuck Yew,

You would recall that I wrote to you on the 9th of March highlighting the tragic accident at Buangkok Green in which a 28-year-old- lady was killed by a lorry outside IMH. I also wrote to the press making a useful suggestion to help prevent further tragedies  (see the details on my blog).

The welfare of psychiatric patients and their families; as well as the IMH staff needs to well taken care of.  Until today, more than 12 days later, I have not heard from anyone on this matter. Any reason for this, ministers?

You would also recollect that on the 5th March 2013, I wrote to you & the press highlighting the excellent service provided by an SBS driver who could well have saved the life of an elderly Chinese man.

I was pleased that you took pains to personally reply to me, Mr Lui.  Besides your  prompt reply, I’ve received 2 other letters via email from the SBS .

I would like to know why  is  it that when contributing citizens make the effort to propose some suggestions as I did in my press latter dated 9th March 2013 to save lives, I don’t get a proper reply. It seems that when praises are made, replies come fast and furious , but when things go dreadfully wrong - as in the case of the untimely  death  outside IMH, nobody bothers to act on it, or at least that’s the impression I get.

Do we only want to hear the good stuff?   Under the PS21 Programme, replies from Govt. agencies need to come in between 3-5 days. If it takes time to study the situation, surely an interim reply could have been given.  It’s gracious to do so. So let’s create conditions where citizens are prepared to take time  off from their busy schedules to work with the Govt. of the day to improve the lives of all our citizens. And being the sole caregiver to my wife who has schizophrenia , advanced arthritis & 4 other chronic illnesses, I  assure all of you, it’s care 24/7.  Yet, I contribute as an active citizen.

Together , let us strive to make Singapore the BEST HOME to live in. An inclusive society where EVERY citizen matters. That must surely include those who are undergoing psychiatric  care.  

I also would  like to know what IMH & the MOH is doing to improve the  situation at the IMH grounds.

Thank you and I look forward  to an earnest reply from all concerned.


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Footnote: (1) Excerpt from my book- "Understanding and managing mental illnesess in an effective way"
"Schizophrenia is a very complex mental illness and everyone, including doctors and family members need to understand what the sufferer goes through during relapses. For instance, when Doris’ mental stability becomes unstable following a relapse, she does not even know if she needs to clear her bowels or pass urine as the brain cells are not firing properly. When this happens, the tears in my eyes won’t stop flowing because it’s so pitiful to see my wife in that state. So I urge those who are not “walking the journey” to show compassion and understanding.  It is not until we go through these hardships that we truly realize what even an ounce of suffering is like." Copyrightraymondfernando2013

(2)  Porche Poh, Executive Director of Silver Ribbon Singapore who won the MediaCorp's Woman of the Year Award 2013 a few days ago wrote to me:
" Raymond I pray that you will be in good health always because Doris(my wife) & the consumers (meaning psychiatric patients) need you."


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Talks organized by SAMH on mental illness

9th March 2013

Dr Daniel Fung

President , SAMH

CC: Health Minister


Dear Dr Daniel Fung,

Talks organized by SAMH on mental illness

Reference the above matter.
As you are probably aware, I am a volunteer with Silver Ribbon Singapore (SRS),  SAMH & IMH. I have been giving talks at SRS and IMH to members of the public, including schools and polytechnics at IMH  and at SRS platforms.  My talks focus on caring for my wife Doris for more than 3 decades. I share valuable tips on caring for a loved one with mental illness- in my case 37 years of it.

With my wealth of experience I have motivated, encouraged and inspired many to lead more meaningful lives. My wife who has been coping with schizophrenia for 40 years is today, an author of 7 books. How many patients have achieved that here in Singapore?  Myself, I’m an author of 17 books and although I suffered from depression in 1995, I turned my whole life around.

I have saved lives by counselling people on my Facebook who were sure suicide cases, and I can prove it. I want to do more.

I have glowing testimonies that were routed to IMH. During one of my talks to 60 undergrads studying psychology in a university in the Philippines, the lecturers were so impressed that they have invited to me visit the Philippines next year during world Mental Health Day to speak to their citizens.

I have shared my talks at Hougang care Centre a few years ago when Dr Sally Thio was heading the centre.  Yet her newly set up organization – Caregiver Alliance Ltd (CAL) also does not see value in my talks.

The Health Promotion Board is inviting me to give talks on depression soon.  I have accepted.

Yet, despite my untiring efforts to save lives, SAMH refuses to rope me in for such talks. An ASEAN country recognizes my expertise, but NOT SAMH & CAL.

I want to know why all this is happening?  I hope that I’m not being discriminated against in anyway. Show me that you are fair in your dealings with volunteers.

I have repeatedly requested SAMH to invite me for talks, but they do not value my services.  I informed Ex. Director K. Rajeswari & Ms Helen Yong about this, but I get lots of excuses.

On 16th March 2013, through an advertisement in The New Paper on Sat 9th March 2013, SAMH has invited other caregivers to share their caregiving journey.

Can these mental healthcare providers stop cherry-picking?  We need to save & reclaims lives.

Why I am being conveniently left out by SAMH and  CAL?  If SAMH & CAL does not value my services, experience and expertise, so be it. I have ways to bring this matter up.  

Our mental healthcare system can be pleasantly enhanced if mental health care providers value the services of dedicated volunteers who are prepared to give their time in spite of the fact that they have heavy caregiving responsibilities – as my case.   

I appreciate a reply & I hope something positive will come out of this episode.   

Thank you.


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Model Caregiver 2010 & Mental Health Champion 2010

Footnote: Dr Fung, I want you to know that in 2003 during the SARS outbreak, when my wife was seriously ill in IMH, I wrote to K Rajeswari, Ex. Director at SAMH telling her about my wife.  SAMH is supposed to look into the welfare of caregivers.  And I was crying out for help! This is what the ED  told me: “Dear Raymond, sorry to hear about your wife. Please take care of yourself. “

End of story!!! Never heard from SAMH after that.   You call this support?

Eventually when I visited IMH and saw my wife’s slow recovery, I had to go through immense suffering. I couldn’t  cry in front of my dear Doris, because her recovery would be slow, so I bottled up the pain inside of me, and the moment I was at the bus stop outside IMH, I burst out crying. It did not matter to me who saw or made fun of me. I needed  to release the tremendous  pain inside my heart.

So I suffered all alone for  2 solid months and went again into depression.  My wife’s full recovery took 9 months. At IMH, a nurse manger told me if I needed medication. I told her Idon’t need medication. I just needed someone to walk with me during that difficult period, and that popping pills is certainly not the solution.

Caregivers need respite care. I have raised this matter several times.  I asked a staff nurse at IMH if they have respite care for caregivers. She replied , "Yes, we have. Put your wife to stay in IMH, and you can go for a holiday.”

So I go and enjoy myself , while my wife lies in a mental hospital. To me, that’s not respite care. That’s abandonment. Respite care  is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

It’s about time that everyone wakes up to  the realities of mental illness.

Thank you.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Good that management is receptive to feedback. Hope something positive comes out of this. Everyone must have equal opportunities and make contributions for the well being of our citizens, especially if they want to save & reclaim lives.

Reply from Dr Daniel Fung on sat 9th March 2013

Dear Raymond
Thank you for your helpful feedback and congratulations on your opportunities to help destigmatise mental illness and inspire caregivers. I am sure we can find opportunities for your contribution within the work of SAMH. After all, we are all concerned with improving the lives and mental health of the people in our community. I have copied this email to Ms Rajeswari and Mr James Wong to look into this matter. 
Warmest regards

Dr Daniel Fung

Chairman Medical Board

Institute of Mental Health





Fatal accident at Buangkok Green - Transport operators can make are safer

9th March 2013

To: Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew

Dear Mr Lui,

Raymond Fernando’s letter to the press: Fatal accident at Buangkok Green  - Transport operators can make are safer

A 28-year-old woman was killed at Buangkok Green, outside IMH. She died from head injuries. I can just imagine the pain the family must be going through. I hope they are given full support by the Government and the mental care providers because grieving is difficult to cope with – more so when a woman in the prime of her life dies so tragically.

I wrote to IMH’s management a few years to improve services there on several issues:

(1) A taxi stand to enable the public & staff to have easier access to commute. It was implemented, thanks to the former CEO of IMH, Prof Kua Ee Hock.

(2) A covered walkway that stretches from the road entering IMH right to the doorstep of IMH so that everyone is sheltered from  the rain & the blazing hot sun. It’s implemented – thanks to Mr Leong Yew Meng, former CEO of IMH.  

Now I’m appealing for a proper bus service which all can benefit from.

We all have to look out for one another, and if things are not right, let’s make it right. That’s the community spirit which I hope the Government will continuously promote at all levels.

My sentiments /suggestions on how we can save lives are best expressed in my letter to the press. I would like to thank The New Paper who has been very supportive of the causes I feel so passionately about.

Letter to The New Paper:

Fatal accident at Buangkok Green  - Transport operators can make are safer

My letter to The New Paper on the above matter is published today, Saturday 9th March 2013 on page 21

I refer to the report “Reducing deaths on the roads” (The New Paper, yesterday).

I am glad that the Government is taking steps to make our roads safer.

Those guilty of speeding and placing themselves and others at risks must feel the long arm of the law.

But more needs to be done to protect and save lives. 

Accidents such as the one in which a 28-year-old woman was killed at Buangkok Green, outside the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) can be prevented.

The number of patients seeking treatment at IMH has swelled over the years.  Family members also make trips to see their loved ones in the wards.  Healthcare workers work on shifts and need to make their way in and out of the hospital late at all hours.  I have also seen joggers at the IMH Park.

Our public transport operators can do their part as corporate citizens to reduce accidents at Buangkok Green by looping existing bus services through the IMH grounds to make it easier for people to reach the hospital safely. 

Most passengers alighting from a public bus now have to walk about 400 metres to reach IMH.

If the buses go right up to the hospital, patients, caregivers and staff will benefit and the area can be safer, with fewer pedestrians.




Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Community spirit alive when an elderly citizen faints in bus

5th March 2013

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew

Cc: PM Lee: For info as well.

Dear Mr Lui,

At  around  2pm  yesterday - Monday 4th March 2013 as I was travelling in Ang Mo Kio feeder bus 265, an elderly Chinese man suddenly fell down inside the bus while trying to make his way from the back of the bus to the front.  The bus had a sizeable crowd.  
Three of us - a Chinese lady in her 40s, an elderly Malay man and I tried to carry him up, but boy was he heavy. I guess when a person has fainted his body becomes soft and very heavy.  The old man was drooling and it was so pitiful seeing him in that state.
The SBS driver, an Indian, noticing the commotion, stopped the bus as it reached the bus interchange and seeing how we were struggling to carry the old man, moved quickly to the back of the bus, lifted him up; and with our help, managed to seat him down.  I was impressed with how the driver managed to lift him up. Obviously he was well trained by SBS.
The driver then made a distress call to the operation’s room at the interchange. Shortly afterward, a uniformed SBS Transit officer came up the bus. I asked the officer to ask him in Chinese the contact number of the elderly man’s family. The senior could not talk, but continued drooling. The officer decided to call for an ambulance, and commuters were asked to alight from the bus as this was an emergency.
I applaud the prompt action taken by the SBS driver because he might have just saved a life. Just as important was the community spirit that was very much alive during this incident. There were no barriers put up on race, language or religion. Help was given just like in the kampung days in the early years when everybody looked out for one another.  This is what I love to see. 
Let’s hope that the elderly citizen gets well soon.  He’s one of us – on this tiny island. And we will all get old and grey- one day.
We all need to be accompanied- whether coping with grief or in different passages of our lives.  And with a rapid ageing population, the community spirit needs to come alive - a programme which I hope the Singapore Government will continue to push for.

I would appreciate it if SBS Transit can be kept posted on the swift action taken by the SBS driver. He deserves to be commended as he was able to feel for any human being.
Thank you.
Raymond Anthony Fernando

From Transport Minister:

“Dear Mr Fernando,


Thank you for taking the time to write to share this incident with us and for the role that you played to help the elderly Chinese man when he fell. We need more commuters like you who are prepared to step forward and avail themselves when such incidents happen.

We will certainly keep SBS posted.”


Best wishes,


Lui Tuck Yew

6th March 2013



From SBS Transit:


Dear Mr Fernando

We received your compliments of our Bus Captain through the Land Transport Authority. We are pleased to know that our Bus Captain had been alert to react swiftly to the situation and was able to manage it well. It is wonderful to know that he has demonstrated the excellent CARES training that he had received from us.

We shall be sure to commend our Bus Captain and to share his good deed with his peers so that they can emulate him. We also wish to thank you for your kindness towards the elderly gentleman and the help that you had rendered towards him. It is indeed heartening to see the community coming together to show concern for another person in need of aid.

Once again, we thank you for your compliment and we wish you a pleasant weekend ahead.

Yours sincerely
Pauline Tan

Head, Customer Relations
SBS Transit

7th March 2013


Dear Mr Fernando
Compliment to a bus captain of Service 265
We are truly pleased to learn of your pleasant experience with the said bus captain while travelling on 4 March's afternoon.

We have conveyed your compliment to the said bus captain and also commended him for his prompt action and assistance rendered. He was also encouraged to keep up the good work for excellent service . On the other hand, we have also encouraged other bus captains to follow the good example of him.

We would like to thank you for your good efforts in sharing with us about your pleasant experience and such commendation will certainly spur our bus captains to perform even better. We also like to thank you and other fellow passengers for coming forward to assist the passenger in needs.

Looking forward to your continued support.

Yours sincerely

Loo Ing Heng
Customer Relations Manager
SBS Transit Ltd

21st March 2013