My press letter to The Catholic News on the above matter is published this weekend, and will reach out to 300,000 Catholics in Singapore
I refer to the report, Discussing discrimination surrounding mental illness, (CN, November 26).
The move by Clarity to create a platform for people to talk openly and share personal stories about mental health issues is the step in the right direction.
More of such discussions and sharings by those who have walked the journey and have stayed resilient in the face of adversity can help a great deal in eradicating stigma, as well as paving the way for family members to embrace caregiving as a noble job.
All of us in the mental health community need to raise our voices against stigma – in every possible way. Stigma prevents people struggling from mental health issues from seeking help.
Wrongful assumptions that persons with mental illness cannot recover must be corrected. This is where advocates should come out in full force to debunk this misconception. Combating stigma is by no means an easy task. Stigma leads to discrimination where sufferers of mental disorders become isolated and are the prime target of all kinds of humiliating remarks within the community and at the workplace.
Most people fear what they don’t understand. In the case of mental illness, a lack of understanding can give the wrong impression that all psychiatric patients are violent and cannot function properly. This is far from true as there are many success stories of how recovered patients are contributing as useful members of society through the support, love and care of their caregivers.
The media has an important role to play in de-stigmatising mental illness as it can so easily sway peoples’ thinking. Patients and caregivers are the best people to speak out against stigma. By expressing their thoughts and opinions through public forums, letters to the media and on social media, they can gradually change perceptions of the mentally ill.
In managing a loved one with mental illness, it is important to observe the 3Ps –Patience, Perseverance and Prayer.
Recovery from mental illness takes time, so be patient and don’t set your expectations too high. Above all, don’t get discouraged. Some days will be worse than others, but just like the clouds, these will pass away.
Raymond Anthony Fernando