Monday, August 11, 2014

Raymond’s letter to The Straits Times: Support, not sideline, those with mental illness

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter is published today, Monday 11th August 2014.

I fully agree with the sentiments expressed by Ms Lim Lih Mei in her letter, “Some groups yet to benefit from CPF Life” (Aug 4).

The mentally ill and their caregivers face an uphill task in getting support – be it through employment, social support or financial assistance. Mental and physical disabilities can be easily turned into capabilities if the Government and employers are willing to create opportunities for people with such conditions to find employment.

Until today, the Government refuses to remove the mandatory requirement for job seekers to declare if they have a mental illness.

If they declare that, they will most certainly not get the job. But if they do not declare it, they will lose their job for making a false declaration.

Caught in this dilemma, people with problems often do not seek early psychiatric treatment.  It is wrong to assume that people seeking treatment cannot function or do not have abilities.

For example, people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can also be creative and brilliant, but they are ostracised as “hopeless cases”.

In fact, many who have sought psychiatric treatment can not only function pretty well, but also excel in life – with the help of enlightened employers and a supportive environment.

Given the highly stressful environment we live in, it is not uncommon for people to struggle with mental health issues.

Employers must understand that work therapy works for the mentally ill. With a change in mindset, more people will step forward for treatment because they know they will not be sidelined if they confide in their employers about their plight.

I hope we can become a more mature and inclusive society, one that is more supportive of those who have to manage mental health issues.

Raymond Anthony Fernando





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