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.





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