My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter was published on Monday 21st April 2014.
Senior writer Andy Ho’s suggestion (“Exempt these young men from NS”; last Sunday) makes sense.
Schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder that is very difficult to manage. Those who are in regular contact with patients grappling with mental health issues need in-depth knowledge of the illnesses, so they can help in the patients’ rehabilitation and recovery.
The environment plays an important role in helping a person cope with schizophrenia. Strong emotional support from family members, the community and employers is also helpful.
Unfortunately, people know less about mental illnesses than they think they do. This was the case with Private Ganesh Pillay Magindren’s camp supervisor.
It is timely for the Ministry of Defence to review its policy on national service for those with serious mental illnesses. Those with such conditions should be allowed to fulfil their NS obligations in non-military organisations, where their skills can be better utilised.
For example, those who are artistically inclined like Pte Ganesh could serve in agencies like the National Arts Council, which could be a win-win situation for both parties.
Raymond Anthony Fernando