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!
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO