Tuesday, April 23, 2013

RCs could reach out to the mentally challenged- Raymond A Fernando's letter to the press

My letter to MediaCorp’s TODAY Newspaper on the above matter was published on Tuesday 23rd April 2013.
The major revamp of Residents’ Committees (RCs) is timely, as more citizens are facing many challenges (“Major revamp of RCs; residents will have a say”; April 22).

The RCs help to maintain a strong, cohesive society. Their grassroots leaders can also be a useful link to the respective Members of Parliament (MPs) in helping to shape and fine-tune government policies to improve the lives of all residents, both locals and foreigners.
I note that while the RCs have identified seven themes, including arts and culture, family, sports and the elderly, there is no supporting scheme for those grappling with mental health issues.

There have been several cases where people with mental health issues have caused disruptions in the heartlands, the most recent being an elderly woman who canes women in shorts and the rag-and-bone man who used a blade to cut three women in Bukit Batok.

There is a danger that, some day, infuriated victims or their family members may retaliate. The police would then have more work on their hands.

We already have a lot of prejudice against the mentally ill, and many of the comments I read online are far from kind. Incidents such as the ones above do not help in any way to de-stigmatise mental illness.

Many of our elderly citizens who are isolated and feel unloved may fall into depression and some may lose the will to live. There is a need to reach out to this group.

In developed countries such as the United Kingdom and Finland, the authorities are empowered to send people with mental illness for mandatory treatment when they are unable to take care of themselves.

In Singapore, the present laws do not allow the authorities and mental healthcare providers to act in such a way.

RCs can play an important role by working with mental healthcare professionals to help identify those in dire need of support and care. There could be a confidential database between the RCs and these healthcare providers or the Health Ministry.
Grassroots leaders who are trained in basic mental health issues can work closely with MPs to lend a hand to the mentally challenged. This would make for an inclusive society


Monday, April 22, 2013

Raymond A Fernando's letter to the press: Step forward to help the troubled minds before it is too late

I am troubled by the reports of two people who caused disturbances in Ang Mo Kio and Bukit Batok “Heartland terrors” (The New Paper,  April 18).

Firstly, I am surprised that the elderly lady who was arrested in December 2009 for caning women in shorts has re-appeared, and is going about caning innocent women in shorts in the Ang Mo Kio wet market once again.

From the report that I read, it is clear that the senior citizen is living all by herself and that the death of her husband could have been a trigger factor for her to behave abnormally. Isolation and being cut off from the outside world can do a lot of damage and many of our seniors have fallen into this trap. Every effort must be made to help these citizens, including getting them to be assessed for psychiatric treatment when they are unable to take care of themselves.

The man who cut 3 women with the blade cannot be in a correct frame of mind to have have carried out those crimes. A lady, Madam Yeo, believes that this rag-and-bone man could be mentally challenged. Like the eldery woman who whacks women in shorts, this man also needs help.

As it is, there is so much discrimination against people with psychiatric conditions and if such crimes continue in our heartlands, the stigmatization against the mentally ill will deepen even further, and there will be enclaves within our society. Added to this, the police and the courts will be overwhelmed with new cases to handle. We must nip the problem in the bud.

During my employment with public relations department of the then- Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, we had to scan all the newspapers everyday and highlight broadcasting related issues from within Singapore and outside Singapore to all the industry players. Where necessary, action would be taken from the reports. The same procedure should be carried by Government agencies and the mental health providers who are in the mental healthcare business.

The two troubled-minded citizens are not only posing a danger to others, but could harm themselves as well. While the efforts by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in training nursing home staff to look out for mental health issues in the elderly is commendable, IMH and the authorities, including the Members of Parliament and their grassroots leaders must also reach out to those who are facing mental health challenges in the heartlands.

 Raymond Anthony Fernando

This letter appears on the Online forum of TNP.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Raymond's letter to The New Paper (TNP): Ex- FAS chief in poor health : Support and don’t forget our football legends

My letter to TNP on the above matter was published on Monday 15th April 2012.

I am saddened to read of the plight of former Football Association of Singapore (FAS) chief, N Ganesan who lies in a nursing home, bedridden.  He has a speech impediment and memory lapses and is unable to pay his nursing-home bills. 

But I am encouraged that there are kind-hearted people like Singapore Cricket Club President Gurchran Singh and a group of people who call themselves “Friends of Ganesan” who are rallying around the legendary ex-FAS chief to raise money for him.

Mr Ganesan sacrificed a lot of time and effort, at times forking out his own money, to bring glory to football in Singapore for one simple reason: He was passionate about the game.   

I never failed to catch all the Malaysia cup matches on TV when he led greats like Quah Kim Song, Dollah Kassim, Samad, Mohamed Noor and many more to bring glory to Singapore.  

Many foreigners who donned Singapore colours have been rewarded with attractive monetary incentives that enable them to live a pretty comfortable life.  But how much appreciation, support and recognition do we give to our very own citizens who were not motivated by money but rather by their love of the sport?

We should be able to work, play, live and die with dignity and so should Mr Ganesan.  This is the mark of a gracious and compassionate society.

No one should ever feel that when they are old and sickly, they become a “forgotten” lot, especially when Singapore faces a rapidly ageing population.

I urge the FAS and even the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to join the Friends of Ganesan and help raise funds for this man who truly deserves our recognition and support.


This issue was also raised by me in MediaCorp’s TODAY Newspaper

FAS, MSF should support efforts to help ex-FAS chief

Click on this link to read:

 This is the reply given by TODAY Newspaper:
18 April 2013

Ridzal Saat, Deputy Director, Development & Planning Division, Football Association of Singapore

FAS will continue to assist in fund-raising campaign

We refer to Mr Raymond Fernando’s letter, “FAS, MSF should support efforts to help ex-FAS chief” (April 15).

We agree with the sentiments of many fans who consider Mr N Ganesan’s chairmanship from 1974 to 1981 as one of Singapore football’s best eras. He is among those who have contributed immensely to the progress of Singapore football.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS), including FAS President Zainudin Nordin, assisted in fund-raising efforts last year when we learnt about his medical condition.

The funds went to the N Ganesan Trust Fund, which was set up by his family and friends to ensure that he receives the nursing care required.

As part of our efforts to support this year’s fund-raising campaign, we sought contributions from our stakeholders and pledged our support to an upcoming fund-raising dinner.

We have also finalised an arrangement with the LionsXII and S-League clubs, wherein they will contribute to the campaign.

All funds raised will again go to the trust fund.

The FAS always values the contributions of those, including Mr Ganesan, who have made a difference to the sport in Singapore as well as in Asia.

We have always assisted those in need to the best of our abilities, although we do so privately out of respect for their families’ privacy.

We take this opportunity to seek support from more well-wishers, which would greatly assist Mr Ganesan and his family as he continues his recovery.