The number of people grappling with stress, depression and other mental health issues is rising – at an unhealthy trend. Severely stressed-out people who have no avenue to turn to or someone to listen to their problems and help them out will give up on life. Those who are lonely and isolated, as in the case of many of our lonely seniors who feel unloved, will also commit suicide. It has happened and we just cannot sweep this social problem under the carpet.
It was reported in The New Paper on 9th September 2017 that each day 15 people in Singapore try to kill themselves with one troubled person succeeding in ending his/her life.
The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) have been doing good work in comforting distressed people, but they are facing big problems in securing volunteers as many of those who volunteer have full time jobs. Out of the 173 SOS volunteers, only 59.8 percent could fully commit to the hours required of them and those duties stretched overnight.
Most of the calls to SOS seeking help are between midnight and 2am – the period when there are lesser SOS volunteers. Yet, this is a time when people who are deeply troubled and contemplating suicide need a listening year.
To help SOS carry out their unenviable tasks of consoling, saving and reclaiming lives, I propose that our grassroots leaders step forward and become SOS volunteers. Some of our grassroots have received training in basic mental health by the professionals at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). Equipped with this knowledge they can be useful to SOS. More of these grassroots leaders can receive mental health training by IMH and increase the manpower shortage at SOS.
With training by SOS, many of these grassroots leaders can help save and reclaim lives. Moreover, as they work closely with our policy makers–Members of Parliament and Ministers, the grassroots leaders can be well positioned to give constructive and genuine feedback to the policy makers.
Grassroots leaders are the eyes and ears of the government – but more importantly they must serve the community and help residents who are going through challenges as they are in touch with the ground.
In addition, talks by recovered patients, psychiatrists and resilient caregivers whereby a holistic approach on mental health is taken, ought to be held at community clubs island-wide. When residents are moved by such sharing experiences, you might just be able to secure SOS volunteers from the audience. If not, with the knowledge gained though such talks, they, as neighbours, can help anyone who is going through mental health issues.
It will take a village to help and support those struggling with mental health issues, but if we don’t try to reach out to them, then we will not become an inclusive society.
Raymond Anthony Fernando