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.
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.
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
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.
Dr Daniel Fung
Chairman Medical Board
Institute of Mental Health