Thursday, December 24, 2015

Raymond's letter to The Straits Times: 'Silent Night' for lonely seniors

My letter to The Straits Times on the above subject is published today, Thursday 24th December 2015.
Being a widowed senior citizen who has lost key social support, I share the sentiments expressed by Mr Jeffrey Law Lee Beng (“Vital to help seniors feel connected with society; Dec 19).

Seniors who have experienced unconditional love from their late spouses and lack community support are bound to fall into depression as they feel a huge vacuum in their lives.

Within the four walls of our homes, many of us are suffering in silence, as there are too many painful memories of the loved that we once were fortunate to experience.

This sense of being uncared for intensifies for Christians when Christmas comes around as lonely seniors see families and friends in joyous celebration.

This is when our vulnerable citizens have to literally experience a “Silent Night”.

During a home visit last month, my Member of Parliament, Dr Koh Poh Koon, felt my loss, gave me some FairPrice vouchers for Christmas and directed his grassroots leader to place me on the list of vulnerable citizens.

I was deeply touched by Dr Koh’s generosity and this must surely be the behaviour all MPs can emulate.

Churches, too, has an important role to play in supporting their Christian seniors. Their volunteers can visit our lonely elderly and spread the joys of Christmas through carolling and simple gifts.

With the loss of income, the Government can help by offering a fixed sum to our lonely elderly through the proposed Silver Support Scheme, while the Ministry of Health could lower the qualifying age for subsidies for seniors, as medical costs are a concern for many retired Singaporeans. Raymond Anthony Fernando
It isn't enough that I have loved/cared for my wife to her last dying breath, practised the marriage vows for 40 years to the letter, based on my Catholic teachings, but when my wife dies, everything  has  died with her.  Almost all churches are now turning me away and my only means of earning a decent living & to keep my sanity  has come to a grinding halt.
 The Shepherd must know how to lead his/her flock and bring light to those who are trapped in darkness. And our clergy should know that.
Besides, MP Dr Koh, there are a few others who understand my struggles in my quest to rebuild my life,  both as a writer and as a widower ,and they include Senior Minister of State in PMO, Mr Heng Chee How who purchased 25 copies of my book , A/Prof Chua Hong Choon who bought 20 copies of my novel and Dr Pauline Tan , the CEO of the Yishun Community Hospital who purchased 20 copies of my books.  These are exceptional human beings. For when a door closes, God will open windows.
In closing, I also want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to a few friends who have taken the trouble to take me out for a meal.
Have a Blessed Christmas!
Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, December 21, 2015

More should be done to aid disaster-prone Philippines.

My letter to MediaCorp’s TODAY Newspaper on the above issue gets published today, Monday 21st December 2015.

As the world celebrates Christmas, millions in the Philippines will literally be having a silent night from the effects of yet another typhoon (“Typhoon kills four, cuts power in Philippines”; Dec 16).

Every year, its citizens must live in fear as the country experiences 20 typhoons, on average, many of which cause destruction to homes.

The Philippines’ provinces have beautiful beaches and colourful festivals — rooted in Christianity and dating back to the Spanish colonial period — that delight its people, attract tourists and help boost the economy.

However, left unchecked, the effects of the numerous natural disasters will, in time, cripple the Philippine economy and cause suffering.

Besides power being cut off, communications may break down, leaving many in anxiety. Prolonged anxiety is a lead-up to mental disorders.

As a community, well-off nations, philanthropists and charitable organisations should do their part in raising funds and providing expertise, such as in engineering and housing, to improve lives in the Philippines.

For example, emergency generators with solid concrete walls could be built in strategic areas.
Churches in Singapore could set aside weekly collections from parishioners to help fund infrastructural improvements, while the Tzu Chi Foundation can continue with the cash-for-work
programme that helps Filipinos reconstruct their homes and surrounding areas.



Friday, December 18, 2015

Letter to The Straits Times: Send a ray of light to the Philippines

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter is published today - Friday 18th December 2015.

I was saddened to read the report of Typhoon Melor, which has wreaked havoc in the Philippines (“Typhoon leaves millions without power in Philippines”; Wednesday).

Even though Filipinos are resilient, and typhoons often batter their country, we should never turn a blind eye to their suffering.

The disasters cause power failures. Families live in darkness.

Water supply is poor, leaving many who have sickness to suffer even more. The humid tropical climate creates even more suffering.

I urge all nations and people who are financially secure to rally around the Filipinos and end their suffering by providing a range of support – from financial to expertise and materials.

For example, charitable organisations can supply battery-operated fans and portable lights for households to use during power failures.

The Red Cross, Mercy Relief and Tzu Chi Foundation can coordinate relief efforts to lift the human spirit and bring a ray of light to everyone living in the Philippines.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Heavy handed IMH Psychiatrist refusing to release patient who has recovered: An open letter to President Dr Tony Tan and the Singapore Government

My twin brother was admitted into the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) more than 3 months ago, and is now in ward 35B under the care of the nurses and the watchful eye of acting Assistant Director (Nursing) Gurbak Singh who has been directed by A/Professor Dr Chua Hong Choon, the Chief Executive Officer of IMH to care for him and look into his welfare, and through their care and compassion, my brother has now recovered.  

It is now 120 days since my brother has stayed in IMH and with him having to pay at least $40 per day for ward charges alone, the hospital bills is going to be huge and will eat up most of his Medisave.  Is this any way to treat a senior citizen (my brother is 65 years old)?

Moreover as Advent has arrived, it only proper that sensitivity be exercised as Christians need to spend Christmas with their families.  My brother was in tears when he phoned last week, pleading with me to secure his release and asked me to appeal for help from his Member of Parliament.

Despite being stabilised, my brother’s attending psychiatrist, one Dr Ganesh who is from India has been defiant and refuses to release my brother and even had the audacity to tell my brother that I take up the matter with the authorities as he is not afraid of anyone.   Clearly there is a total lack of compassion with absolutely no respect for the patient and his family members.  My 92 –year-old mother who resides in a nursing home is not aware that her son has been confined to IMH and it will break her heart if she finds out.  How long can she live? It is inhumane to do this to the family, taking into account also that I have lost my wife and will have to spend Christmas all alone.

It is highly improper for foreigners to ill treat Singaporeans when the Singapore Government welcomes foreign talent with open arms , and the worst part is that these bullies are allowed to get away with their heavy handedness.

The CEO of IMH is a very kind and understanding man, but some of his staff are tarnishing the good image that he wants to build and maintain.

Appeals to the Ministry of Health, the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers have fallen on deaf ears.  No one wants to reply.  What is all this talk of being an inclusive society when there is absolutely no compassion for our marginalized citizens who need support?

IMH is now in the news – for all the wrong reasons, as a Myanmar nurse has been charged with assaulting a mentally ill patient.  The healthcare professionals have to learn one thing – help patients in their recovery and get them home so that they can rebuild their lives and reintegrate back into society.  And if they are unable to do that, then why pray tell are they in the business of mental health care?



Latest update - Sunday 13 Dec 2015.: Due to the stress of what it taking place, my twin brother's 30 over years son who has a Bipolar condition, has suffered a stroke and is now warded in New Changi Hospital.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Public suggestion: SPH should consider investing in TV and movie productions to raise revenue


Dear Dr Yaccob,

Given that the internet makes it so very convenient for users to access news and other information at hardly any costs, it is timely that that the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) is making the right move to invest in other areas to source for additional revenue ( “SPH committed to find new revenue sources, say chairman”; 1st December 2015).

Even local writers and their book publishers are losing out to the internet and some have to end up winding their core business and look for other ways to bring in the dollars.

Given that SPH has been pretty successful in reaching out to listeners on the radio channel of Kiss92, with John Klass, Maddy, Arnold and Jason, I fervently believe that SPH could increase her revenue by investing in television and film productions.  As a pilot project, SPH could have joint projects with MediaCorp and established local film producers and even overseas producers.  I have every confidence that advertisers would not hesitate to air their products and services on these networks as SPH has a good reputation.

There are many moving real life stories of Singaporeans who have gone through huge adversities in life and have come out stronger than ever; and such real life challenges are bound to touch the audience – be in on the small screen or in the cinemas.

There is a win-win situation with this proposal as young talented graduates and even former broadcasters who can serve as mentors can help build up the industry.

In this day and age, if businesses are to survive, both the SPH and MediaCorp must not see each other as competitors, but rather as partners. 

I appreciate a reply from your ministry, please, Minister.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Letter to The Straits Times: Europe's refugee problem needs resolution

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter was published on Saturday 21st November 2015.

Like many others, I was shocked by news of the terror attacks on France said to have been committed by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.

The killing of innocent people has angered the French government into going on the offensive
to conduct air strikes on ISIS targets and hunt down and bring the perpetrators to justice (“French jets pound Syrian city” and “France on big manhunt for terror suspects”; both published on Tuesday).

However, is this the best solution? There is likely to be retaliation (“War not the solution, address root causes” by Ms Maria Loh Mun Foong; yesterday).

Europe is already grappling with a refugee crisis, with hundreds of thousands fleeing places like Syria and Iraq and seeking asylum in European countries.

If these problems escalate, we will be faced with a refugee crisis which is bound to cripple the economies of many nations which are already struggling to stay afloat.

The international community and political leaders need to provide humanitarian aid to the growing number of refugees. For a start, there is a dire need to provide them with shelter, food and clothing.
Dutchman Johan Huibers has built a life-size Noah’s Ark that is three storeys high (“Unlike Noah’s, this ark meets fire safety standards”; May 31, 2011). Brunei also has its famous Floating Village.

As a temporary solution, such arks could be built to provide shelter for these refugees.

Philanthropists, the community and world-famous performers can help raise funds for this humanitarian purpose.

Next, countries could consider accepting refugees who can be trained in skills so that they can become self- reliant.

The Buddhist charity Tzu Chi Foundation had an excellent “cash for work” scheme in the Philippines, where Filipinos affected by Typhoon Haiyan were given cash in return for helping to clean up the community and rebuild their homes. A similar scheme can be put in place for refugees.

If humanitarian support is given to those who need care and love, perhaps one day, we could see the end of terrorism.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, November 16, 2015

Letter to The New Paper: DJ SPLITS WITH YOUNGER BEAU : Age no barrier to love

My letter to The New Paper on the above matter was published today, Monday 16th November 2015.

It is never to cope with a divorce or failed relationship.  It may seem that the whole world has turned upside down for the affected couples.  That is why I full empathise radio DJ Rosalyn Lee, 36 and her boyfriend Justin Vanderstraaten, 24 who have broken up ( ‘Insecurity eventually crept in” (The New Paper, Nov 12).

Despite their age difference, the couple were able to carry on with their relationship for two years and it is a pity that they had to call it quits.

Though they may take time to heal, they can learn much from the experience and grow into wiser and stronger people.

To me, age is just a number and should not in any way be a barrier to anyone falling in love.  And it should not keep any loving couple apart, whatever society may think.

Relationships are often complicated and require us to work hard if they are to survive the trials and tribulations of modern life. 

Couples embarking on serious relationships, and eventually marriage, must be aware that the trip may not be smooth, that there may be pitfalls and bumps on the road.  

But it means sharing everything in your life – problems, decisions, joy, sorrow, and that makes it all worthwhile.  




Thursday, November 12, 2015

Assault on elderly Catholic Priest- Fr Adrian Anthony: Letter to The Straits Times: Important to be patient on the road

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter is published today, Thursday 12th November 2015.

I have noticed time and again that some impatient drivers have the habit of blowing their horns at other vehicle users and pedestrians when they are in a hurry.

This is why driving instructors must educate their students – the future road users – on the virtue of patience, and that they must not engage in aggressive driving.

Our elderly citizens are often on the receiving end of abuse – physical and psychological – and I am glad that District Judge Janet Wang recently sentenced Dick Lim Poh Guan to seven weeks’ jail after he punched 72-year-old Father Adrian Anthony in a road rage incident (“7 weeks’ jail for punching priest”; Oct 30).

The district judge also called his behaviour and that of his wife deplorable. I hope that the authorities will counsel Lim as he serves his jail sentence.  It would also be useful if Lim’s wife is sent for mandatory counselling as well.

Parents need to inculcate good values in their children. Given that the couple have two children, it is important that the aggressive behaviour of Lim and his wife are not picked up by their children.

Road rage can lead to altercations, assaults and collisions, which result in injuries.

Road users who come across drivers who display signs of violent behaviour need to be cautious and not provoke them, as they can easily become victims of road rage bullies. It is far better to take down the vehicle number and report the incident to the police.

It would also be helpful if culprits of road rage are suspended from driving for an indefinite period until they improve their behaviour.

Raymond Anthony Fernando



Saturday, October 17, 2015

Letter to ST’s Life! Provide caregivers with mentors: Read Raymond Anthony Fernando’s letter to the press

My letter to The Straits Times Life Section on the above topic is published today, Saturday 17th October 2015 (Page D9 of the Life Section).  

I refer to the story, Struggles Of ageing caregivers (Life, Oct 11).

Being a full-time caregiver to a loved suffering from a chronic illness is no easy feat for he requires care 24/7.

As a former caregiver for 40 years, I relate to the challenges faced by caregivers.

While the professionals can offer support, advice and training, our pool of caregivers can benefit immensely with a mentor who not only has a wealth of experience in caregiving, but is also able to motivate and give hope to them.

I propose that the Government implement a paid mentor caregiver scheme, either on a part-time or full-time basis that allows experienced caregivers to have job opportunities, and at the same time, be accorded the recognition that they deserve.

This scheme which can be part of a caregiver support programme will provide the mentees with an outlet to voice their concerns and a useful resource to gain caregiving insights.


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Saturday, October 10, 2015

MY VIEWS: Be mindful that relationships are fragile

I am deeply saddened that a beautiful young Irish lady, Cathriona White, former girlfriend of Hollywood actor Jim Carrey has lost her life is an apparent suicide (Jim Carrey’s ex-girlfriend found dead in suspected suicide, Life!, Oct 1.)
Carrey whose two marriages failed must be devastated that this tragedy has taken place. Strangely enough this is a man who makes the world laugh through his films, but who must surely be crying on the inside.
Somebody once said:  “Love begins with a smile, grows with a kiss, and ends with a tear drop.”  And this is sometimes the case when relationships do not work out well.
It is important for parents to be involved when their children embark on the love journey.  The couple as well as their parents must bear in mind that all relationships require hard work if they are to survive the trials and tribulations of modern day life.  Relationships, like life is often fragile and complicated. 
Taking into account that during the love journey the road ahead may not be a smooth one with bumps and pitfalls along the way, it is vital for parents to always be involved when their children get involved in a relationship and must get to know the person whom their child is dating, keeping the communication lines open at all times.   Confiding in a trusted friend about a relationship can also help save a life.
If the parents observe any sign that their child is deeply troubled, going into isolation and loses interests in daily living, they need to quickly get the couple to talk openly about any problems that are coming on-stream.  To this end, it is just as important to learn about depression and relationship issues so that professional help can be summoned when it is needed.
Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, October 5, 2015

Letter to The New Paper: DIFFICULT NEIGHBOUR : Offender could have mental issues

My letter to The New Paper on the above subject appears today –Monday 5th October 2015 on page 10

It must be a nightmare for Madam Yeo Choon Lan, having to put up with a neighbour who, for months, has been throwing faeces from a window in their block (“It’s so gross!”, (The New Paper, Sept 28).

A healthy and clean environment is crucial to make our homes the sanctuary that we need to unwind after a hard day’s work or studying in school. 

Having to close up her kitchen windows will worsen the living environment and could adversely affect the health of Madam Yeo and her neighbours. 

At first glance, it appears that the offender is polluting the environment and causing harassment in the neighbourhood.  But we have to ask ourselves these questions:  Would anyone in the correct frame of mind throw faeces out of the window for as long as four months – at times thrice a day?  Could one or more of the residents be struggling with untreated mental health issues?

Both the National Environment Agency and the Housing and Development Board should be empowered to get the assistance of the Community Psychiatry Department of the Institute of Mental Health to find out if there are any psychological issues that are causing someone to behave in this manner.



 With our Government leaders calling for its citizens to look out for one another, it is imperative that active citizenry becomes part and parcel of our lives.  To this end, I propose that all government agencies scan the newspapers everyday to look out for any uncivic behaviour that threatens either the environment or the well-being of the residents in the heartlands.  Once social cohesion or an unhealthy environment is threatened, the authorities concerned and its partners must be alerted so that the problems can be nipped in the bud.  Agencies that read such reports should step forward willingly to help rather than being directed to do so.  Sometimes, it is necessary to be a Kaypoh (Busybody) to resolve issues. We should never turn a blind eye to those who need a helping hand.  I would like to see the Singapore Spirit come alive in this context.

And now that PM Lee has appointed Coordinating Ministers to oversee the various ministries, I hope such social problems will become a thing of the past. At the tail end, the Government has to be open to learning from people who have walked the journey and who are willing to volunteer their services.  Education on mental illness must be an on-going relentless effort to help the marginalised in our society. That’s what makes for an inclusive society!


Monday, September 21, 2015

Raymond Anthony Fernando's letter to The New Paper: MAN WITH SCHIZOPHRENIA KILLS MUM: More awareness needed for mental illness

My letter to The New Paper on the above matter is published today, Monday 21st September 2015 on page12.

I am deeply saddened that a young adult, Sujay Solomon Sutherson, has killed his mother in a violent tragedy.  The report “We didn’t expect such severe violence” (The New Paper, Sept 16) was so heartrending that it brought tears to my eyes.

Patients struggling with schizophrenia that is left untreated can be plagued by auditory hallucinations and delusions so overwhelming that they perceive a need to defend themselves and go on the attack.  It is often the voices in their troubled minds that drive them to do wrong.

Antipsychotic medications can suppress these voices in their minds, though relapses may occur if patients find it challenging to keep up with their treatment regimes.

It is also not easy for caregivers to persuade their loved one to always comply with their doctor’s prescriptions. There can be arguments that tear families apart.

It is unclear if this young man and his family received sufficient patient care and caregiver support from professionals. 

It was reported that he was jobless. Had he been able to find work through a dedicated case manager, it could have helped in his recovery. Work works for the mentally ill.  It gives them dignity and sense of self worth. This year’s World Mental Health Day theme is, “Dignity in Mental Health.”  Keeping this in mind, we should intensify public education on mental illness adopting a holistic approach, with doctors taking care of clinical aspects and resilient patients and caregivers sharing their life experiences.

Greater awareness is key in saving and reclaiming lives and preventing such tragedies.


Footnote:  Every child I am sure loves his/her mother, and I am confident that this 34-year-old man does as well. But can you imagine how he would feel when he is stabilized and comes to his senses.  Then realizes that he has killed his dear mum.

It is high time that public education as outlined by me in this press letter must continue relentlessly and stretched out island-wide. I have 40 years’ experience that has not only brought my late wife (she had schizophrenia for more than 4 decades) to a full recovery, but I managed to help her become an author of 8 books– half of it bestsellers.  How many patients with this condition have achieved some remarkable success – in Singapore and even in Asia? Yet my expertise is not valued.   I am now 65; going on 66 in Feb next year and I want to do all I can to help these marginalized citizens, even though I face HUGE obstacles in wanting to save lives. There is far too much resistant because people don’t like to do what they perceive as “Extra Work”.  

PM Lee has called on all Singaporeans to step forward to help the government and I try so hard to do that.  My advocacy journey has been met with curses – both at me and my wife.  When I request for funding to write my books, hurtful comments , like , “ He thinks we owe him a living”, are said behind my back.  And such insensitive remarks are made by the very organization that I fully support and speak up for.   But I fear no one, because as a Christian, I am taught to feel for another human being.  On all accounts, I am God-fearing.

2 weeks ago, while waiting for the bank to open, I got into a conversation with a young mother and she was pleasantly surprised - to learn that my wife authored 8 books. She immediately purchased my novel, “Loving a schizophrenic” and strongly advised me to reach out to the Parents’ Support Group in schools – to educate the young as well as their parents on mental illness.  So it’s over to you, Mr Heng Swee Keat.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Raymond Anthony Fernando’s letter to the press: Dr Chee deserves a second chance

My letter to Medicorp’s TODAY Newspaper on the above matter is published today, Thursday 17th September 2015.

I refer to the report, “SDP to explore working closer with WP next time out: Chee” (Sept 14).

It is heartening that the Singapore Democratic Party is considering working with the Workers’ Party (WP) for the next General Election, to help bring about a more unified Opposition, which is good for Singapore in the long run.

From the rallies and campaigning, it was clear to me that SDP chief Chee Soon Juan has mellowed, turned over a new leaf and is contributing to the changing political climate here.

When I read that he had spent the weekend with his family after an “intense past week”, I felt for him and his family. Despite setbacks, he has not raised the white flag but has persevered with the support of his wife and children.
Making a living out of publishing books is not easy, especially if one is unable to secure sponsorship and find suitable platforms to market them. As a writer trying to put food on my table, I know this well.
I recall how Dr Chee was shunned when he was peddling his books at different locations to earn a living. It must have been a humbling experience, but I am happy the tide has turned, with more Singaporeans believing in him and lending him support.
Like anyone else, Dr Chee should be given a second chance in life. So, let us not put down a fallen man, but help to lift the human spirit. Anyone who struggles in life but perseveres through trial and error should be able to see the rainbow after the storm.



Friday, September 11, 2015


I have followed closely the political rallies, campaigning and the rebuttals, many of which were resorting to name-calling and ungracious behaviour.  I will never condone humiliation and to ‘kick a man when he is down.’ I will be full of admiration for anyone or any organization that is willing to lift the human spirit. And don’t I know it so well when I myself as a struggling writer and Singapore’s leading advocate for the mentally ill tries so hard to bring ‘light’ to the mentally ill and their family members – all of whom are suffering in silence. 

Advocacy- a thankless task
Advocacy is a thankless job and people who are heartless will curse you.  And both my wife and I have been cursed to die. I can no longer bury this in my heart cos’ it is tearing me apart. Yes, my wife was cursed to die or I to die so that I will cease to carry this fight to ‘free the mentally ill from their prisons.’ The person who cursed us got her wish, my wife died. Will I die? That remains to be seen.
Lack of support from the church
Now, allow me to relate an incident which took place recently as I tried unsuccessfully to market my novel “Loving a Schizophrenic” which was translated in Chinese at a Catholic Church in Siglap. There were 2 main reasons why I wanted to sell this book at this Church which can benefit even Catholics.
Firstly to educate and help people understand mental illness so that lives can be saved and reclaimed and secondly, to earn some money to put food on my table and pay for my expensive medical conditions that include 2 eye operations that are due. 

And this is what happened after I made the request:
On Wednesday 9th September 2015 at 8.10am I received a call from the Parish Priest Fr Kenny Tan who was yelling his head out at me following my 2nd appeal to him, clearly upset that I had copied my plea for support to the Archbishop.

Imagine getting such a phone call first thing in the morning from a Catholic Parish Priest whose boisterous voice was so loud that it was picked up by the lady behind me near a bank, who comforted me after I shared, with tears in my eyes, my struggles in wanting to earn a decent living through writing and raising awareness of mental illness. And trying so hard to cope with the grief over the loss of my wife.  Is this anyway a priest ought to communicate?

Earlier on Fr Kenny had the audacity to suggest that I sell off my 3-room flat and downgrade to a smaller flat so that I can "live comfortably till my time is up". But does he not know that my home has beautiful memories of my wife which I want to cherish for the rest of my remaining years? How insensitive? Little wonder that many Catholics are leaving the church because some priests are adopting a 'talk-down attitude" as opposed to a talk to attitude".

A crash course in public relations is badly needed for the clergy. Perhaps it is high time that our clergy is reminded of how supportive Pope Francis is of the mentally ill and their caregivers

And although I sent two emails to the Archbishop, he has failed to respond.  Even when my wife died, I had to send the Head of The Catholic Church a couple of reminders before he offered some words of comfort.

Lack of support from SAMH
Next, I wanted to secure some funding for my new books because I write to keep my sanity. I drafted the sponsor letter to make it easier for the Executive Director (ED) of the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) to write a simple cover letter based on my appeal. The staff member handling the hotline was most unhelpful and claimed that the ED was ‘Very busy”. I could not get a chance to speak to the ED either because the staff member refuses to put her on the line.  It is more than 3 weeks now (appeal letter was sent on 18th August), and until now, SAMH is “sitting on it”.  Two emails sent to Dr Daniel Fung of IMH Senior Management who is also the President of SAMH highlighting this lack of support has failed to secure a response.

I give- from the heart
I have done so much for mental health, IMH has benefited tremendously – they have got more staff, more resources and more money because I had the courage and conviction to speak out boldly without fear in the press, on radio and TV on what it is like to care for a loved one suffering from schizophrenia, citing my beloved Doris’ 40 year battle with this severe brain disorder. 

I hope someday kind-hearted individuals or organizations will step forward to help me as I try so hard to earn a decent living and rebuild my life. Thank you for your time & God Bless!



Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Open doors to public education on mental illness: Raymond Anthony Fernando’s letter to the press

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter appears in the print section of The Straits Times today, Tuesday 8th September 2015.

Having been a caregiver to my late wife, who coped with schizophrenia for 44 years, and as a volunteer with three mental healthcare providers, I share the sentiments expressed by Miss Lee Kay Yan in her letter ("Seek psychiatric, not psychic, help for mental illness"; last Saturday).

In many of the cases that I have handled, family members caring for the mentally ill will approach only those they trust, given the nagging social stigma that is attached to mental illness.

It is crucial for people to learn at first hand the amazing recovery of psychiatric patients through medication and, more importantly, through staunch emotional support from resilient caregivers.

Once this is clearly explained, there is an excellent chance of caregivers getting their loved ones to seek treatment. This, I have done successfully through motivational talks and dialogues.

It is human nature for people to fear what they do not understand.
Holding talks and dialogues on mental illness is never an easy task, because it is viewed as a taboo subject, and people have the mistaken belief that mental illness will never affect them or their loved ones.

Then, there are professionals who are of the opinion that only psychiatrists can give talks on mental illness, and will turn away resilient caregivers who can so easily motivate and give hope to novice caregivers of the mentally ill.

Besides partnering mental healthcare providers to raise public awareness on mental illness, I have also reached out to many organisations to try to boost public education on mental illness.

But I still face an uphill task in trying to reach out to some agencies.

Raymond Anthony Fernando


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Press letter to The Straits Times: Hiring retirees a win-win solution

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter is published today, Tuesday 1st September 2015.

I am sure many older workers would welcome the news that the Government plans to raise the re-employment age from 65 to 67 by 2017 (“Good news for older workers”; Aug 25).
Being gainfully employed gives older workers the opportunity to have key social support.  This will enable them to keep their minds actively engaged and at the same time, help them cope with rising costs.  With their wealth of experience, they can easily be mentors to the younger workers.
Public sector officers who have retired from service could be offered job opportunities in all government departments – be it on a full-time or part-time basis.

If the civil service leads by example, the private sector will be enticed to do likewise.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Press letter to Voices@ Today Newspaper: Offer jobs to more retirees to match raised re-employment age

My letter to MediaCorp’s TODAY newspaper on the above matter is published today, Tuesday 1st September 2015.

I am sure that many older workers welcome the news on the re-employment age (“Re-employment age to be raised to 67 years by 2017”; Aug 24).

Gainful employment gives older workers the opportunity to get key social support. And with their wealth of experience, they can be mentors to younger workers.

At a recent get-together organised by MediaCorp, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Communications and Information Lawrence Wong paid a fitting tribute to former employees who have contributed to the success of our local television and radio stations.

His tribute was echoed by MediaCorp chief executive Shaun Seow, who mentioned that younger workers can benefit from the broadcast pioneers’ dedication and knowledge. The national broadcaster walks the talk by hiring suitable older staff on a part-time or project basis.

Likewise, public sector officers who have retired could be offered job opportunities, be it on a full-time or part-time basis, in all government departments.

Job opportunities should be created for our retirees, which would enable them to keep their minds engaged and, at the same time, allow them to pay for their MediShield Life premiums, thereby giving them peace of mind on rising health-care costs.

If the civil service leads by example, the private sector would be enticed to do likewise



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Raymond's letter to The Straits Times: All seniors living alone need support

My letter to The Straits Times on the above subject is published today, Wednesday 19th August 2015.

As our population ages rapidly, more seniors who live alone will certainly require better home support to help them in their twilight years, given that the number of seniors aged 65 and above has tripled since 2000 (“Old and home alone” and “He relies on a friend to get help when troubles strikes”; both published on Aug 17).

While we help the elderly living in one-room rental flats, as well as those on public assistance, we must also not forget those in bigger homes who are also living alone.

While some neighbours are helpful, many who work long hours and have family commitments will not be able to respond quickly to lone seniors during a crisis, which can be a life and death situation.

Therefore, we must ensure that we provide support to all seniors living alone, even if they don’t require financial assistance.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Politicians must not forget the mentally ill: Raymond Anthony Fernando writes to the press

My letter to MediaCorp’s TODAY newspaper on the above matter gets published today –Wednesday 19th August 2015.
I have been following with interest the plans that both seasoned and aspiring politicians are going to undertake for the electorate.
I agree with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean that it is important to have a team with “integrity, stability, the ability to look into the future and execute for the present” (“Coming GE crucial for S’pore to pick leaders for road ahead: DPM Teo”; Aug 15).
It is also important for elected Members of Parliament (MPs) and Cabinet ministers to show empathy and support for the marginalised in society.
This group includes persons with mental illness, who are often isolated because of the nagging stigma they carry practically all of their lives, and their family members.
Although mental illness is a growing problem, and these citizens need all the support they can get, I hardly hear the issue being championed in Parliament, leaving many of their carers to suffer in silence.
Before my wife, who was a psychiatric patient, died last year, I had discussed the daily struggles these carers face, based on my experience and that of others, with several MPs from the ruling party and the Opposition.
It was discouraging when, despite my attempts to seek more support for these needy citizens, mental health issues were hardly raised by the MPs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Unconditional love vital in the recovery of mental disorders : My views – On my blog:

Professor Chong Siow Ann, 53 who is the Vice- Chairman of the Medical Board (Research) at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and a senior consultant psychiatrist there, wrote a commentary last Friday 7th August 2015 on the power virtue of love that can help persons suffering from schizophrenia recover and even excel in life.  I am responding to that commentary in this letter based on my life experience in caring, loving and providing unconditional love to my late wife– Doris Lau Siew Lang.
Unconditional love vital in the recovery of mental disorders
Support and understanding from the community and more importantly, unconditional love from family members are vital in the recovery of persons trying to cope with schizophrenia (“Tender loving care the best treatment for schizophrenia; Friday 6 August; The Straits Times). 
Through the many public education talks which I give periodically, I still find that there a lot of misconceptions of schizophrenia – even among the highly educated as many still believe that persons with schizophrenia have split personality when in fact, it is the splitting of the mind that causes sufferers to experience hallucinations and believe that people are trying to harm them.  This is why it is absolutely necessary to continue with such public education talks – to reach out to all sectors of the population – because generally people fear what they do not understand.
It is terribly depressing to see a loved go through relapses of schizophrenia and having seen first-hand how my late wife went through 12 relapses of this brain disease, I was often helpless.  But through my 40-year journey in caring for her until her passing last year, I have learnt that medication compliance formed only 50 percent of her recovery.  The other 50 percent that brought her to normal self was the powerful virtue of love, coupled with lots of patience and understanding.

With undying love from family and friends Mathematical genius John Nash and Prof Sakes were also able to recover from schizophrenia and go on to excel in life, contributing as useful citizens in society.

That said, I encourage all caregivers who are managing loved ones suffering from schizophrenia or other mental disorders to learn as much as they can on mental illness and put into practise the virtues of love and understanding even though the illness can often test one’s patience.  But always bear in mind that ultimately, love conquers all.


Raymond Anthony Fernando



Friday, August 7, 2015

Broadcast pioneer was caring, dedicated: Raymond Anthony Fernando's letter to the press on the late Steven Lee

My letter to The Straits Times on the above subject was published on Friday 7th August 2015.

I fondly remember the late Mr Steven Lee as one of the pioneers in the broadcasting industry (“The man behind historic broadcast”; Aug 6).

Steven had a couple of firsts. He was the first person to read the English news on television and he was also the first person to organise the first Talentime contest.

In the 70s and 80s when Steven was the Controller of Radio (Special Duties), I was in the public relations section of the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.  He was one of the finest colleagues I worked with – a humble, hardworking and caring colleague who possessed remarkable compassion.

Once, when my wife was hospitalised, Steven and his wife Amy drove me to the hospital, spoke to my wife and prayed for both of us, providing comfort at a time when I badly needed support.

Steven was a dedicated and committed broadcaster. When I was a liaison officer during the Asean exchange programmes, Steven would accompany me to the airport to receive the delegates from all the Asean countries even though he could have delegated the task to others.

Steven would take me to a restaurant for a hearty breakfast treat on those trips to the airport, surely because he knew the meagre salary I was drawing then.

He was a man who believed in caring and sharing.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Be mindful of elitism as it can create enclaves in society: My views - On my blog

I share the sentiments expressed by both Raffles Institution principal Chan Poh Meng and Straits Times journalist Amelia Teng on being mindful of elitism (“A hard look at averting elitism”; Wednesday 5 August 2015).

Whether we want to admit it or not, elitism in schools automatically makes a class separation. Elitism will not only create enclaves in society and widen segregation, but pockets of a class society will emerge.  This is not healthy when the Government is keen to promote an inclusive society. 

Many students who are well to do get driven to schools by their parents, and have maids to tend to their needs.  These students do not experience the difficulties in travelling in our jammed- back trains and buses.  They do not see how many in our society who are clearly disadvantaged having to struggle with disabilities, discrimination, poor health and isolation.    

These bright students in top schools will one day enter the workforce; hold managerial positions with some entering the political arena.  Therefore if they are not in touch with the ground, they will not be in position to understand the struggles which the less fortunate in our midst have to go through in their daily lives.  

One way to get the students to understand the plight of needy Singaporeans is for the top schools to enroll their students as volunteers, answering the call by the MSF Minister to give their time and effort to this useful cause.  Once the students see first-hand how the marginalised in our society have to grapple with a whole range of issues practically every day in their lives, the students will be in a better position to show love, understanding and support for our needy citizens. This will ultimately pave the way for a far better society where everyone looks out for another – irrespective of their status in society.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Appointed Government ministry can help secure volunteers; coordinate volunteering activities : An open letter to the Singapore Government

I welcome the pledge by Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin to improve the coordination among the public agencies so that assistance is made easier for vulnerable groups “Coordinated support for vulnerable groups to be improved”;  27 July , TODAY Newspaper ).
It is also encouraging that the MSF Minister is keen to get more people to become volunteers as they can play an important role in society. 

I have been a volunteer with the Institute for Mental Health and two other mental health providers for several years, and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction as I am able to motivate, inspire and give hope to patients and their family caregivers with the ultimate goal of giving them all a meaningful purpose in life.  Volunteering that makes a big difference in the lives of the vulnerable and bring sheer joy to them can be the motivating and guiding principle for people to sign up as volunteers.

It is no easy task securing volunteers, but I fervently believe that the civil service which is Singapore’s biggest employer with a workforce of 82,000 civil servants can lead by example.  To achieve this, I propose that a Government ministry be appointed to secure volunteers from every ministry and then organise programmes and activities to reach out to the vulnerable in our society.  For better team work, public sector volunteering programmes can be within a ministry or across ministries. The vulnerable in our society should not be just children or those living in one-room HDB flats, but adults, persons with disabilities – visible and non-visible and those living in bigger flats who are isolated with lack of social support.

Whether it is sprucing up a home, painting a flat, befriending the elderly, taking the less fortunate for meals, accompanying the elderly sick to hospitals and clinics for medical appointments or organising a sponsored event for nursing homes and hospitals, such meaningful work can give a deep sense of satisfaction to the volunteers.  Added to this, once public sectors officers carry out volunteer work, they will have a better understanding of the marginalised in our midst and then be well positioned to help their senior management and ministers fine tune policies and make Singapore a truly inclusive society where no one is left behind.

The noble job of volunteering can be factored in the yearly staff appraisals, and ministries and staff who excel in proving excellent programmes for the vulnerable can be given awards annually in recognition of their  dedication and commitment to the less fortunate.




Friday, July 31, 2015

Foreign workers who shine: Read Raymond Anthony Fernando's letter to the press

My letter to The Straits times on the above matter is published today, Friday 31st July 2015.

Over the past month, I had pleasant encounters with two foreign workers here. One is a doctor from Hong Kong and the other a Malaysian in customer care.

Dr Jason Lau, a medical officer attached to the Ear, Nose and Throat unit of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, had on two occasions, inserted a camera scope through my nose to reach my throat to check if a suspected fish or chicken bone was stuck in it. Dr Lau’s guidance and reassurance, coupled with his patience and care, made the intimidating procedure much easier to handle. His competence and knowledge revealed that two small tonsils in my throat were causing me pain. He prescribed medication that took care of them.

The other foreign worker who made an impression is Mr Nisook Ramalingam from the Singtel Mobile department, who goes out of his way to advise me on the best, cost-prudent options for my handphone usage at home and abroad. He returns calls promptly and because of his knowledge, I am assured of getting the “extra mile” service.

Their professionalism in ensuring that Singaporeans are well-looked after will slowly but surely help contribute to whittling down the resistance some have towards foreign workers here.

Raymond Anthony Fernando


Monday, July 27, 2015

Elderly abuse: Raymond A Fernando's 2 press letters

(1) Letter to The New Paper:   ELDERY ABUSE

Tougher laws, regular visits to the elderly

My letter to The New Paper on the above matter is published today – Monday 27th July 2015

Elderly abuse appears to be on the rise here. 

I am outraged to read of the abuse suffered by 58-year-old Kamisah Burel and how her daughter and a neighbour were allegedly involved.  

There must be more effective preventive strategies, stronger laws and policies to tackle elder abuse.

But policy makers must also recognise that caregiving is a daunting task.

Family caregivers who have little or no support can suffer burnout when they can no longer cope, and become abusive themselves.

Grassroots leaders, Members of Parliament and mayors should make the effort to visit the elderly periodically.  A database with their names should be maintained and updated regularly by the authorities. 

And the laws must still come down hard on those who abuse the defenceless. 

A clear message must be sent that the Government will not tolerate any neglect or abuse of the elderly. .



(2) Letter to The Straits Times: Appoint block leaders to help abused seniors

My letter to The Straits Times on the above subject is published today, Monday 27th July 2015.

Elder abuse appears to be on the rise. The recent case of a man who allegedly told his neighbour to feed her 58-year-old mother faeces and urine highlights the need for better protection for our seniors, some of whom may be suffering abuse in silence (“Neighbour charged with abetting abuse”; last Saturday).

Taking care of the elderly is no easy task because some seniors – who could be grappling with serious medical conditions, including psychological issues – can test one’s patience. And financial problems can add to the already heavy strain on the caregivers.

To help stamp out elder abuse, community spirit and good neighbourliness must prevail. To this end, I propose that block leaders be appointed in all housing estates. These block leaders, working with the areas’ MPs and the grassroots leaders, can be the point persons to be consulted if there are suspected cases of abuse.  They can keep a watchful eye on any form of abuse, look into suspected cases, and provide the necessary support.

Raymond Anthony Fernando



Friday, July 24, 2015

Impressed by care, service of two foreigners: Raymond Anthony Fernando’s letter to MediaCorp’s TODAY Newspaper

Recently, I encountered two foreigners working here — a doctor from Hong Kong and a Malaysian in customer care — who showed that they have Singaporeans’ interests at heart and displayed excellent care and service.

Dr Jason Lau, a medical officer attached to the ear, nose and throat unit of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, had to insert, on two occasions, a camera scope in my nose to reach my throat to check if a suspected fish bone or chicken bone had got stuck.

Though the procedure was intimidating, his guidance and reassurance, coupled with his patience and care for me, made it easier. With his competence, he discovered that two small tonsils were causing me pain and prescribed medication for this.

Mr Nisook Ramalingam, from Singtel’s mobile department, also impressed me by going out of his way to advise me on the best options for my phone usage, locally and overseas, so that I can be financially prudent.

He returned calls promptly and because of his knowledge, I was assured of that much-needed extra mile of service.

Professionals like them can gradually change perceptions of those who are resistant to foreigners working here.