My letter on the above matter was published in The Straits Times on Wednesday 26th November 2013.
I appreciate the supportive role student Risa Tan Xuan Ying has played in lending a hand to patients with mental illnesses (“Fight bias against the mentally ill”; last Wednesday).
Many in society are still unable to accept people struggling with such conditions.
Patients and caregivers are the best people to educate the public on mental illness because they are “walking the journey”.
Policymakers who understand the difficulties psychiatric patients and their caregivers face can play an important supporting role. We also need enlightened employers who are willing to give recovering patients a chance to turn their lives around.
Advocates can also help to combat stigma. In the United States, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has come up with lots of programmes to help the mentally ill and their families reintegrate into society.
To combat stigma, it has a StigmaBusters network of advocates around the world whose role is to fight and correct inaccurate portrayals of mental illness. They are committed to educating society on the reality of mental illness, in breaking down the barriers of ignorance.
The Ministry of Health, with the support of the Institute of Mental Health and its partners, should start such a scheme. Our stigma busters can include those in the mental health-care industry, patients and caregivers, and anyone who feels passionately about mental illness. They can make a big difference to the lives of those who have been ostracised by society.
Raymond Anthony Fernando