Thursday, February 27, 2014

Caregivers of the violent mentally ill need more help - Raymond A Fernando’s letter to the press

Do catch my letter to the press on the above matter- published in MediaCorp’s TODAY newspaper today, Thursday 27th Feb 2014.  
I refer to the report “Man gets eight years for fire that killed dad” (Feb 14).
The man is a psychiatric patient suffering from schizophrenia, and it seems that there are defects in our mental healthcare system that must be corrected to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.
First, the police must be empowered to take mentally ill patients with violent tendencies to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), on the request of carers who cannot manage them.
I know the man’s mother, and prior to his offence, she had approached the police to take him to IMH. But she was told that, since he did not commit any crime then, they could do nothing. It is a shame that IMH staff who care for violent patients can be rescued by pressing the emergency button in the ward, but carers who have the task of looking after loved ones with such conditions cannot protect themselves even after they approach the authorities.
Second, although IMH has a mobile crisis team, there is no ambulance service that can take violent patients to the hospital quickly when a crisis occurs. Instead, relatives must call for a private ambulance, which could cost up to S$400.
Third, halfway houses must be built to allow such patients to seek temporary treatment and support before they can return to the community.
Fourth, there are new, atypical antipsychotic drugs that can be used to treat schizophrenia. As these are costly, the Government can provide more subsidies for such medication.
Above all, carers need support, and if IMH cannot provide it, who can?
Raymond Anthony Fernando



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