Thursday, November 30, 2017

Public education on mental illness must be on-going with structural change to support patients and their caregivers: An open article to President Halimah Yacoob & the Singapore Government

 I am so often moved by the love dedicated caregivers of the mentally ill show to their care recipients, and the hours they spend offering help and support to help them in their recovery. Believe me it is no easy task!


Their heart-breaking stories are representative of the many voices of caregiversthe mothers, fathers, children, sisters and brothers who often choose to remain out of the public eye due to the nagging mental illness stigma.  The hardest part of being a caregiver other than making sacrifices and neglecting their own care is doing so all the time with a pure heart and never failing to pray. Having a faith is so important for caregivers. Whatever religion caregivers’ practice, having a faith can make the caregiving journey so much lighter.


I heard someone mention that caregiving is “love in action,” a description that relates pretty well with me. The selfless love that caregivers express every hour of every day is so important to the well-being of others, but it’s also important that caregivers remember to take care of themselves.


Many people have asked me how I managed to take care of my late wife who battled schizophrenia for 40 long years. Their supplementary question:  Who took care of you, Raymond during those 4 decades?  My answer is simple – Jesus.  The Lord had been watching me all those years and He continues to do so as I try to rebuild my life.


Help for mentally incapacitated elderly with no family support


I applaud the Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Desmond Lee for taking the initiative to provide a useful scheme to help people who are mentally incapacitated.  In a report on Channel News Asia, “More help for mentally incapacitated elderly with no family support” on 29th November 2017, seniors aged 60 years and above who have lost their mental capacity and who lack family support will be given the option to turn to the Voluntary Welfare organisations (VWOs) to make important decisions regrading their finances.  Under strict criteria, the VWOs will have to apply to the court to carry out this task. This scheme will be launched in early 2018.

On-going public education on mental illness and structural changes to support caregivers are much needed

In anticipation that seniors may become mentally incapacitated or even prevent them from falling into this predicament, it is vital to provide them with an excellent support system from day one, including those who are caregivers who have the unenviable task of taking care and managing loved ones with mental health conditions.

It breaks my heart to read reports of people who are struggling with intellectual disabilities being abused. It can be extremely stressful taking care of someone with mental illness.  Tempers can so easily flare up and anger management takes a beating.

Over the last 8 years, I have gone all over Singapore, most of the time on my own accord, and at times partnering the Institute of Mental Health and occasionally a VWO to educate the public on depression and schizophrenia where I provide useful caregiver tips on bringing patients to a recovery. To date, I have given more than 100 talks all over Singapore.

I want to reach to more segments in the community that includes places of worship and the Community Development Councils. But I face lots of hurdles in wanting to do so.

My friends tell me to keep knocking on doors, and one day some will open their doors. I hope that day arrives, sooner than expected.

The reality is that everyone of us has a one percent chance of getting mental illness, but I am sure that this figure has risen given the uncertainties and challenges in a globalised competitive world coupled with rising costs that many cannot cope with.

Bringing mental health public education overseas

I read a report which documents that in the Philippines in 2015, 7 Filipinos commit suicide every day, and I am sure that figure would have risen by now. 

In Malaysia too, many people are also grappling with mental health issues and so in Indonesia.

With my knowledge and expertise in mental health issues, coupled with my passion and commitment on mental health issues, I hope to reach out to these ASEAN neighbours and help their citizens to manage mental health issues much better.

Nothing is impossible if we put relentless effort in what we believe in.  Adopt the attitude that ‘We should live a life with no regrets’ and that, we can achieve. With that I leave all my readers to ponder over this poem which I specially wrote for my advocacy work.


A poem in support of persons with mental illness and their caregivers

Together with the citizens of our beautiful lands
I will walk with you – hand in hand
I will travel near and far
To remove the mental illness stigma
There will be no mountains too high to climb
No rivers that are difficult to cross
I will guide you all the way
I will ensure that you'll never be lost

Do not be afraid to let go
I care for you
This virtue I want you to know
Feel no more pain
Have no more fear
For soon – the sky will be clear

I will help you all cope
And bring forth to you –renewed hope
I will be your beacon – your guiding light
That will make your days sunny and bright


Raymond Anthony Fernando
© copyrightraymondfernando2005


Thank you for your time, Madam President, and I look forward to your support in helping me fulfill my passion so that we can all save and reclaim lives.




Raymond Anthony Fernando


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