My letter to the press (TODAY newspaper)on the above subject is published today, Friday 5 December 2014,
I was saddened to read about the murder-suicide reported in “AMK double deaths: Daughter in ‘unsound state of mind’” (Dec 4). Two lives could have been saved if only treatment for Andrea Tay had been sought.
When a person or even his/her carers are in denial about his/her mental illness, it is one of the biggest obstacles to recovery.
In addition, myths and misconceptions surrounding mental illness often prevent carers from seeking professional help for their stricken ones.
Public education on mental illness must be intensified islandwide because many people still believe that faith healers, bomohs (Malay shaman) and mediums can cure sufferers of mental illness. By taking this route, the patient becomes more confused.
When professional treatment is delayed, the patient’s condition worsens. In contrast, with medication, psychotherapy or both, the majority of people with mental disorders can return to a normal lifestyle. Indeed, there are many success stories.
Family members can help by finding sources of information that can help them to understand how the illness affects the person.
Caring for the mentally ill is anything but easy, so it is imperative that the family also finds sources of support for themselves.
With the Ministry of Social and Family Development now rolling out more programmes for carers, the journey of caring for loved ones with mental illness is going to be smoother than it was previously.
The Institute of Mental Health has a competent healthcare team: Doctors, nurses, psychologists and counsellors who can help to stabilise patients, as well as a department of community psychiatry, which monitors outpatient treatment.
Those who are unable to pay for treatment can approach the social workers there for support. My late wife, who coped with schizophrenia for four decades, had benefited from these programmes.
To help patients and families cope better, it would help if friends, grassroots leaders and religious groups play a supporting role, so that the mentally ill and their carers do not feel alone.
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO