Monday, May 26, 2014

Raymond Anthony Fernando’s 2 letters to the press on the mentally ill & their carers

(1) Letter to MediaCorp’s TODAY newspaper: Hope for more support for carers, people with mental illness
With the reopening of the 12th Parliament, I welcome the news in the report “Leadership change for 4 of 11 Govt Parliamentary Committees” (May 16).
I hope Singaporeans can be offered fresh, bold ideas that will pave the way for a more inclusive society, catering to the needs of all Singaporeans, especially those who need better support, such as people with mental illness and their carers.
Often, due to guilt and self-imposed obligations to care for loved ones grappling with mental health issues, which are difficult to manage, carers sacrifice their own needs, running the risk of physical and emotional burnout.
Member of Parliament for Moulmein-Kallang Group Representation Constituency Denise Phua, who will double up as Mayor of the Central District and Government Parliamentary Committee Chairman (Social and Family Development) at the end of the month, has championed people with autism for years and has succeeded in getting them support. With her new appointments, I hope she will also champion the mentally ill and their families.
Healthcare is a concern for all Singaporeans, and with the appointment of two-term backbencher Lam Pin Min as Minister of State (Health), I hope this long-suffering group will soon get the needed assistance from the Government.

(2) Letter to The Straits Times: Donate to the mentally ill too

THE Singapore Children's Society is appealing for philanthropists to step forward and donate $1,000 a year to its charity ("Want to be a philanthropist? Give $1,000 a year"; last Wednesday).

While this charity is doing a good job to support needy children, there should also be initiatives to support another group on the fringes of society - the mentally ill and their families.

Many psychiatric patients and their caregivers are in dire need of financial support and it is not uncommon for caregivers to give up their jobs to care full time for their charges.

If we want to build a society where no one is left behind, there needs to be better support for the psychiatric community here.

To this end, I suggest that a similar initiative be started to raise funds for psychiatric patients and their families. A dedicated community that supports the mentally ill can ensure that the work of reforming mental health care extends far into the future.

But it will not be easy to get philanthropists to donate to this group because the mentally ill are often viewed as people who cannot contribute to society.

This is far from true. Moreover, some individuals may avoid donations to the field of mental illness for fear of identifying themselves and being personally affected by the social stigma associated with mental illness.

Our politicians are some of the highest-paid people in the world, so they can lead by example by contributing to this worthy cause. Once they do so, I have every confidence that other philanthropists will follow suit.

 Raymond Anthony Fernando

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