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