Sunday, April 24, 2016

Letter to VOICES at MediaCorp’s TODAY Newspaper: More talks, dialogues can reduce social stigma of mental illness

My press letter on the above subject is published today, Sunday, 24April 2016.

In the letter “Identify, help mental health patients who lack family support” (April 21) the writer called for more support for people with mental illness who find it difficult to secure support from their relatives.

As a caregiver to my late wife who battled schizophrenia for four decades, I know only too well how daunting the journey can be when there is hardly any support both from relatives and agencies.

The harsh reality is that caregivers often make their journey all alone. Some relatives may have their own families to take care of, while some are reluctant to get too involved in the care, because they are worried that if the primary caregiver passes on, they have to take over.

The upside is that if the primary caregiver has the tenacity and perseveres, he or she will become more resilient and independent.

Many people with mental illness have an excellent chance of recovery and can go on to lead perfectly normal lives if there is a good support network and better understanding of mental health issues in society.

To this end, it will help if Member of Parliament Darryl David’s proposal of mental wellness centres could go one step further by collaborating with Residents’ Committees, government agencies and mental healthcare providers to include motivational talks and dialogue sessions on mental health issues to raise more awareness, which can help reduce social stigma in the process.

Last week, I was invited by a team of undergraduates from the National University of Singapore to share my 40 years’ experience in caring for my wife at a dialogue session called “Handle with care: Strength in Adversity”, along with three other speakers.

The audience was delighted with the sharing, and walked away with a far better understanding of mental health issues. This is the precisely the direction the proposed mental wellness centres should take so that persons grappling with mental health issues and their caregivers can live with dignity and renewed hope.





Sunday, April 3, 2016

Letter to The Sunday Times: Tackle abusive behaviour, build patient –nurse rapport

My letter to The Sunday Times on the above subject is published today, Sunday 3rd April 2016.

I am disturbed to read of the abuse by some patients and their relatives towards nurses (“Physical and verbal abuse against nurses ‘on the rise’”; last Sunday).

When frustrated, some impatient patients and relatives lose their cool and take it out on nurses.
More efforts need to be put in place to turn such a negative situation into a positive one.

First, abusers need to be sent for counselling and anger management programmes to control their tempers.

If an abuser manages his temper poorly, it might affect his relationships at home, in his workplace and with his friends.

Second, abusers should, after being trained, serve in hospitals doing some form of community work, so that they experience what it is like to be a nurse.  

Only then, will they learn to appreciate our nurses better.

Third, a “model patient” scheme, in which an exemplary patient could win a prize, should be put in place.

Such prizes could include holiday packages for both the winners and the nurses who nominate them.  

This will motivate others to emulate the winners’ good behaviour.

At the Institute of Mental Health, volunteers sing and read to patients, as well as take them out for outings with the nurses tagging along.

This programme not only helps to build excellent rapport with the patients, but also aids in patients’ recovery.  

Thus, my fourth suggestion is for all other hospitals to have such a bonding programme in place to improve the relationship between nurses and patients and their families.

Raymond Anthony Fernando