Thursday, November 14, 2013

Letter to The Straits Times: Help the mentally ill tell their stories

Professor Chong Siow Ann, Vice-Chairman of the IMH Medical Board (research) wrote an interesting commentary on schizophrenia last Friday, and I applaud him for the effort. Indeed, psychiatric patients struggle to come to terms with mental illness and grapple with the side-effects of the medications.  

I have the utmost respect for patients who have the courage and conviction to tell their stories; and more should be done to this end.  I am working on a novel – a caregiver handbook – about 150 pages that will give family members a step-by-step direction on how to look after a loved one suffering from schizophrenia based on my wealth of experience in taking care of my wife.  It will give insightful peeks into her illness and how I pick her up each time she falls ill.  I will have to fund the book myself as its so difficult getting grants. But I fervently believe it will be a useful resource for caregivers who often grope in the dark when trying to help a loved one with schizophrenia. This is my calling, my mission.

My press letter to the Straits Times published today is in respond to that insightful and frank commentary by Prof Chong. Thank you.


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Letter to The Straits Times: Help the mentally ill tell their stories

My letter on the above matter was published in the online section of The Straits Times on Tuesday 12th November 20013.

Last Friday’s commentary (“Shedding light on those with schizophrenia”) provides an insightful peek into what goes through the mind of a patient with schizophrenia.

An effective way to raise more awareness of mental illness is to write compelling stories about how psychiatric patients and their caregivers struggle with mental disorders.

This is part and parcel of advocacy and should be encouraged. Most certainly, people with mental illness should in no way be “imprisoned” by their conditions.

Both my wife and I have benefited from telling our stories because it not only raises more awareness of schizophrenia, but also offers us the opportunity to chart new directions in life and gives my wife a sense of self-worth.

However, publishing a book does not come cheap.  It can cost anything from $4,000 to $6,000 to print 500 copies. On many occasions, my wife and I have had to dip into our savings to fund the books that we wrote.

Some people who face adversities in life, be it through mental illness or other challenges, have approached me on how to go about writing their stories, but are concerned about the publishing cost.

To this end, I urge the National Arts Council to offer special grants to psychiatric patients and their caregivers.

After which, the council can help them keep the royalties from book sales and, with the collaboration of the Institute of Mental Health, assist the writers to promote their books effectively.

Raymond Anthony Fernando





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