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.

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