Friday, January 30, 2015

Raymond's letter to The Straits Times: Support and care in time of illness

My letter to The Straits times on the above subject is published today, Friday 30th January 2015.

During my recent viral infection, which lasted more than three weeks, several people rallied around me and gave me much-needed support.

The head of Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic, Dr Karen Ng, and her deputy, Dr Christopher Chong, attended to me promptly and gave me a letter stating the illnesses I was being treated for, so I could secure the much-need support.

They understood that I was isolated following my wife’s death, and assured me they would do all they could to ensure I got the services I needed.

Bethesda C.A.R.E. Centre in Hougang, through its social worker Anthony, stepped forward and got someone to spruce up my home after I revealed that after my wife died, all the support services we had in the past died with her.

Sharon Tan, Justine and her sister Vivian Chiu, who heard of my plight on Facebook, visited me and bought me a meal as I was too weak to walk.

I will continue to face difficulties in getting social support, but I am comforted to know that there are people who know how to lend a hand and feel for another human being.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, January 26, 2015

SCHOOL BULLIES - Ministry can play bigger part -Raymond 's letter to The New Paper:

My letter to The New Paper on the above subject is published today, Monday 26th January 2015.

It is shocking to read of how a 15-year-old schoolgirl was burnt with  a cigarette, punched, slapped and had urine poured over her face in a humiliating and demeaning manner as reported in “ Burned  with cigarette , splashed with urine”(The New Paper, Jan 21).

Bullying can cause children to fear going to school.  Some school bullies are troubled children who are seeking attention.  They mistakenly believe that bullying is a way to become popular or to get what they want.

Undoubtedly, the student who was subjected these bullying tactics will have to grapple with psychological trauma for some time. 

A quick-fix solution will be for the Ministry of Education to identify the bullies, counsel, and where feasible, punish those responsible for carrying out such uncivilised behaviour. 

But it is better for the authorities to probe deeper into this incident as the bullies could be coming from families where there is little supervision at home, as both parents could be working or who could have issues of their own. 

We need to put a stop to such bullies and in the case of school bullies, a long-term approach is needed. Otherwise, when the academic performance of the victims is affected, they will drop out of school and this will  further add to existing social problems.




Monday, January 19, 2015

Raymond's letter to The Straits Times: Much can be done for vulnerable adults

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter is published today, Monday 19th January 2015.

The new law announced by the Minister for Social and Family Development (MSF) Chan Chun Sing to protect vulnerable adults who are unable to care for themselves is long overdue (“Vulnerable Adults Act to include protection for self-neglect cases”; ST Online, last Thursday).

Adults who have lost their loved ones and lack family support, and who are finding it hard to cope due to lack of resources need the full extent of support from the Government and the community.

In addition, all religious groups must play their part in rallying around these people, who should not be made to feel isolated and neglected as this can lead to dire consequences.

When my late wife was alive, there was some form of assistance such as cleaning services, befriender services and home visits from the community psychiatry department of the Institute of Mental Health.   But the moment she died, all forms of support ended as well.

Why should this be the case?

Recently, when I came down with a virus for more than two weeks, I struggled to get my meals and ended up writing a flurry of letters to appeal for help.

All government agencies, including the Ministry of Health, must work with the MSF to bring about improvements in the care of vulnerable adults so that they can live with dignity and purpose.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Quality of healthcare comprised because of the unresolved bed crunch problems? An open letter to President Tony Tan and the Singapore Government

Two weeks ago, I suffered a severe bout of flu and the General Practitioner (GP) whom I saw suspected at first that I could be having dengue fever. Two types of antibiotics were prescribed and the GP advised me to visit the polyclinic to do a blood test if the fever does not go down.

The blood test carried out on Thursday at the Polyclinic revealed that I was having viral fever and the doctors are monitoring my condition. Three doctors at the polyclinic, including a psychologist whom I am seeing for insomnia and a senior doctor who has knowledge of mental health care felt that for my own safety and self-care, I should be admitted to hospital as they are aware that I live all alone following my wife’s death in April last year. Given that I am feeling very weak and have giddy spells, I felt that this was a good idea.

However, the polyclinic doctors who displayed enormous compassion for me told me that there is no guarantee that the hospital will admit me due to the shortage of beds.  After they arranged with their staff to buy me breakfast and my lunch, I was brought to the taxi stand and I went home. 

In the meantime, I am searching high and low for supporting measures such as my meals and treatment for the severe aches in my whole body.  I have also approached two churches for assistance, but no one can offer any sort of help.  I have been going from pillar to post trying to get some support and it wearing me thin, more so when I am already exhausted from the effects of the viral fever.  What makes me feel even more demoralized is that I have been volunteering my time on mental health public education at IMH and other VWOs for years, and yet when I need support I can’t get it.  Have we become such an uncaring g society that we do not know how to feel for another human being?

After my wife of 40 years died, everything - including support measures  has died with her.
Why is it that there is no compassion for an elderly citizen who is ill, still trying to cope with grief and needs professional care.  All because the hospitals are facing a bed crunch.  It is an irony that while the polyclinic doctors have displayed understanding and compassion, the systems are so bad that it  does not want to support those who are in dire need of help and medical care.  The quality of medical care should never be compromised just because MOH cannot resolve the bed crunch problems which have been a nagging issue for years.

I am very sure that there are many others in my predicament who has, or who are going through such ‘difficulties’.  The difference is that they do not voice out these issues because they do not have the means to do so.


Raymond Anthony Fernando


Monday, January 5, 2015

Raymond' s next letter to The New Paper: AIRASIA CRASH : Multi-nation effort commendable

It was shocking to read of the AirAsia jet crash last week and the agonising wait family members went through for news of their loved ones who were on board.

But it is in such times of chaos and tragedy that we see the humanitarian side of people and nations.

The Singapore Government responded to the disaster quickly by sending search and rescue teams.  Such supportive measures will most certainly help to strengthen ties between the Asean countries.

Other countries and charitable organisations have also offered help.  I applaud such humanitarian work which can lift the human spirit.

As the world becomes more volatile, it is imperative that all of us value and cherish our loved ones and build sound relations with our neighbours – both as individuals and as nations. 

In the new year, let us resolve to look out for one another, irrespective of race or religion and care for all those who are suffering.




Saturday, January 3, 2015

Raymond's next letter to the Straits Times, this time to ST LIFE: Film on recovery can help psychiatric patients

Raymond's next letter to the Straits Times, this time to ST LIFE:  Film on recovery can help psychiatric patients

My letter to The Straits Times Life – Section on Saturday 3rd January 2015 carries my letter on the above subject.

I have the utmost admiration for people who, despite their disabilities, have managed to turn their lives around and film-maker Bertrand Lee (left) is one of them (Back To Shooting After Loss Of Leg, Life! Dec 31).

There are several local poignant stories of persons with mental disorders who have, through the support of their caregivers, excelled in the arts.  Sadly, many view them as people who have no economic value.  As a result, many psychiatric patients are ostracised.

The media has an important role to play in destigmatising mental disorders.  It does not help when some dramas depict people with mental illness as trouble makers.

Perceptions of those with mental disorders can be improved if there are shows on success stories. Given that Lee has overcome depression, I urge him to produce stories on the recovery of patients. Once society is able to see that recovery is possible through support, stereotyping of those with mental disorders fade away.

 Raymond Anthony Fernando


Raymond's letter to the Straits Times: Hire caregiver specialists to aid those tending to mentally ill

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter is published today, Saturday 3rd January 2015.

It is encouraging to see more programmes being implemented to support mentally ill people. This will undoubtedly pave the way for a more inclusive society.

Mental illness is never easy to manage, and if poorly handled, relationships can be torn apart, homes and families lost, and future prospects destroyed.

While there have been improvements in the care of psychiatric patients, the support for caregivers is lacking.

Caregivers of patients suffering from physical ailments can persuade their loved ones to seek treatment.  This is not the case with caregivers of those suffering from mental illnesses. They have a tough time getting their loved ones to seek treatment because of the social stigma attached to mental illness.

Novice caregivers often grope in the dark as mental illness is very unpredictable. They need proper guidance, motivation and understanding to allow them to care for their loved ones.

The Singapore Association for Mental Health and Institute of Mental Health both have peer specialists to support persons grappling with mental health issues.

I propose that they consider recruiting “mental health caregiver specialists” too, to lend support to caregivers of mentally ill people – both in and out of the wards.

Experienced caregivers can provide the vital link between the families, patients and mental health-care staff.  So let us value their experience and pass it on to those who need it.

Raymond Anthony Fernando