Thursday, September 28, 2017

Trained Estate Mental Health Ambassadors (EMHA) can help people grappling with mental health issues : A public suugestion to the Singapore Government

The police have been alerted to a case of a naked man roaming in Tampines and are trying to establish his identity, “Police investigating case of naked man who roamed around Tampines” (Channel News Asia; Sept, 14, 2017).

Photographs of the man wearing nothing but boots, spectacles and a lanyard while carrying a handphone, taking a public bus and walking near Block 523C Tampines Avenue 9 has been circulated.

I would not be surprised at all if the man in question could be having a mental health issue that is untreated because obviously no person in the right frame of mind goes around naked in public.  

There have been similar cases in the past where even women have gone nude in public.  In addition, there are incidents where persons with untreated mental health issues have caused disruptions in the neigbourhood, leaving residents to conclude that they are troublemakers. This only deepens stigmatisation of mental illness.

Circulating pictures or videos of persons who expose themselves when they are not aware of what they are doing will not only humiliate them, but cause much embarrassment to their relatives and friends as well.
The police have more pressing issues to handle such as terrorism and crime, so citizens who can contribute ought to help out.

To help resolve this growing social problem, I propose we train suitable people in the neighbourhoods on mental illness by well-established mental health providers who could include professionals from the Institute of Mental Health, Silver Ribbon Singapore and the Singapore Association for Mental Health.   After they are trained, they can be appointed as Estate Mental Health Ambassadors (EMHA)  to serve in the respective estates.

These trained EMHAs whose contact numbers can be given on HDB notice boards, community clubs and on a given website can be contacted to help anyone grappling with mental illness.  
It must be made abundantly clear to both the EMHAs and the person/s being helped that patient confidentially will be respected at all times.

As it is difficult to secure volunteers, an allowance can be given to the EMHAs for their time, efforts, meals and paper work every time they handle a case. The funds can come from the community clubs and all cases must be handled with privacy and confidentially on the person being helped.  Once a case has been handled professionally, the EMHA submits a simple report to the grassroots leader to make a claim.  Such allowances can also come from any charity or organisation that supports mental health.
I urge the government to support this proposed EMHA scheme so that there will be little or no disruptions in public places.


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