Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Raymond 's letter to The Straits Times (ST): Strengthen support system for caregivers

Last Saturday’s report (“Suicide cases rise nearly 30% to hit 20-year high”) comes as no surprise to me, given the highly stressful environment we live in.

Suicide is often a desperate attempt to escape from suffering.  There are many people in Singapore who are struggling with financial problems, relationship issues, mental health problems and poor health.

If you are the sole caregiver to a loved one suffering from a chronic illness and have no support, you are at a very high risk of wanting to give up on life because the task can be overwhelming.

I was in that situation in 1995 when I was struggling to strike a balance between my caregiving responsibilities to my wife, who suffers from a mental illness, and my stressful job, which saw me put in up to 12 to 18 hours a day at certain periods.

The support system for caregivers here is very weak.

After my wife underwent knee surgery last month, she suffered a relapse of her mental illness and I had to bear the pain alone for more than six weeks.

My attempts to secure much-needed support from government agencies and voluntary welfare organisations failed.

In desperation, I wrote an appeal letter to my MP, pleading with him to get us the help we so badly needed.

He was very kind and wrote to several agencies, including a community development council, the Singapore Association for Mental Health and a family service centre, which was the only one that offered help.

If we aspire to build a world-class mental health-care system, then surely we must have an equally world-class caregiver support system in place.

Raymond Anthony Fernando


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