Monday, September 2, 2013

Letter to The Straits Times ST Forum Page: Caregivers of mentally ill need a break too

My letter on the above subject was published in The Straits Times on Monday 2nd September 2013.

Newly promoted Minister of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) Chan Chun Sing has launched the free pilot drop-in programme scheme for caregivers of persons with disabilities, (“Break for caregivers with drop-in programme; last Thursday).

The pilot programme is open to all those who have physical or intellectual disabilities, but not to those with major behavioural issues.  Is this fair?

Caregivers of loved ones with physical and intellectual disabilities will benefit from this new support scheme, and as Madam Joanne Ong rightly pointed out in the report, “it’s very tiring to be a caregiver”.

But MSF must also be mindful that caring for a loved one with mental illness is much more tiring, daunting and draining.

Yet, caregivers in this category are once again being left out in the cold, and are deprived of support.

I have every confidence that if a psychiatrist gives a letter to confirm that their patients are responding well to treatment, are lucid and can function well, this new initiative can also be extended to their caregivers.  Is MSF prepared to do this and think out of the box?

When I wrote to The Straits Times in May and gave suggestions for more respite options for caregivers of the mentally ill, the Ministry of Health (MOH) replied that they fully agreed with me and that they would consider these ideas.

Yet, the MSF conveniently omits support for this group.  MSF and MOH must work in tandem to provide better support for caregivers of the mentally ill and not sideline this group of marginalised citizens – more so when the Government wants to ensure fair and just practices.

My wife Doris Lau who appeared in The Sunday Times Life! section recently is a successful author and is clearly lucid as she uses her skills of cooking and writing for therapy. Must she and I be deprived of support on account of her schizophrenia?

Raymond Anthony Fernando






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