Monday, July 28, 2014

Raymond's letter to The Straits Times: Mental illness is a disability too

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter s published today, Monday 28th July 2014.

I applaud SingTel for donating $1.1 million to develop innovative solutions to help people with disabilities in the new Social Innovation Hub, which will be set up next year ("New Social Innovation Hub to help the disabled"; last Wednesday).

SingTel is working closely with SG Enable - a government agency set up to offer services to people with disabilities - to develop the centre.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about people with disabilities.

Many members of the public recognise only those physically challenged.

But there is also a hidden disability - mental illness.

Disability is defined by experts as the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these.

Through the five-year Enabling Masterplan, the Centre for Enabled Living has drawn up many programmes for people with physical disabilities, but there is not one programme for people with mental illness.

This was one of the concerns I had raised with the Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing during the Social Service Partners Conference on May 21. It did not resolve my concerns.

It is sad that people with mental illness and their caregivers do not receive the same level of support as those with physical disabilities and autism. How then can we call this an inclusive society?

SG Enable chief executive Ku Geok Boon had mentioned that people with disabilities and the community can come together at the Social Innovation Hub to spark new ideas and solutions.

I would like to ask whether SG Enable will include those with mental illness.

Raymond Anthony Fernando




Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Check out my press letter that is published in The New Paper today, Tues, 18th July on page 9 on the pulping of books by NLB.
Raymond Anthony Fernando

Following complaints that three children’s books were not “pro-family”, the National Library Board (NLB) has decided to pulp these books, which has angered some people as reported in “Blood boils over book ban” (The New Paper, July 11).

There is a heated debate going on in the mainstream media and on the Internet on this decision, which some camps view as being hasty and discriminatory.  

While some people are not in favour of such books reaching out to the young minds, others feel that people should have a choice of what they and their children can read.

Perhaps there can be some compromise so that both opinions can be given due fair consideration.  Otherwise, we will become a divided society.

To this end, I would suggest that where books are controversial in nature, NLB could open an area in its libraries that allows for some flexibility. 

A category, like “parental guidance is advised”, could have such books on display. 

With this new feature, parents can first be advised to read the book; and when bringing it back for their kids to read, should guide and educate them on the values and morals which they deem fit.  

We should give more credit to parents who should be entrusted to advise their kids on what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.

This advisory message to parents could be similar to the ones shown on television where parents have the option to guide and educate their kids while viewing certain shows.

Let us not forget that with the easy access of the Internet, children can be exposed to a flood of information that includes pornography.

So while parents are keenly observing what their children see on the computer, they may not be aware that such undesirable material could make its way into the handphones of children.