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.

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