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


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