Monday, August 13, 2018

Installation of night light in homes and sensor lights in organisations in support of the elderly : An open proposal to Lawrence Wong, MND Minister & Masagos, NEA Minister



Certain health issues can increase the risk of falling and these include leg weakness, mobility problems, and balance issues. These are very common problems which many of our seniors face as age catches up on them.

With the steep increase in water and electricity bills, homes and organisations now need to cut down on water and electricity consumptions. 

While the HDB has taken positive steps to improve the safety features in housing estates to prevent the elderly from injury by installing hand bar grips and non-slip tiles in toilets, there is also a dire need to ensure that seniors do not grope in the dark while visiting the toilet at night.

 In other places when lights are not turned on at night or the early hours of the morning, such as in churches, there is a high risk of seniors with mobility problems falling down. We must take concreate measures to prevent this from happening.

In ‘light’ of this, I propose that a night light be installed at bedrooms so that the moment seniors wake up at night to go to the toilet or kitchen, he/she will not fall as visibility is clear.  A night light  switched on does not consume much electricity even if the light is on most part of the night.

In malls or places where there are 24-hour services, such as hotels or eating houses, installing such sensors saves the owners a bundle on electricity bills

In other places such as in columbariums at churches, a sensor light should be installed so that relatives who go there to pray will not fall down as they grope in the dark.

I fell down twice in my church around 6.15am while praying to my late wife and sister at the columbarium. Here the lights are only turned on at 6.30am.

The light comes on the moment someone enters and this way, electricity bills will not rise.  Praying is crucial for all who practice a faith, but more so for those who have lost their loves ones and trying to cope with grief.  No one should have to pray in the dark.


Automated lighting that turns on only when someone enters the room is definitely cost saving.

 
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Opinion piece: It’s a crying shame that our lonely seniors are resorting to suicide



An open proposal to the Singapore Government

"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."
-Christopher Reeve -

It is most disturbing to read the report of many of our senior citizens who are ending their lives through suicide due to lack of support (“Number of suicides among senior hits record high”, The Straits Times, Monday, July 30, 2018).

 

Besides forming a task force to tackle depression and suicides which I proposed on my blog and in the media much earlier, every citizen must take it upon themselves to feel for the elderly lonely. After all, our elderly seniors were the ones who contributed to the economic growth of Singapore during their younger days. Many people, myself included, find it hard to believe that Singapore is a first world country that has third world practices.

 

To abandon the elderly lonely who include those who have lost their loved ones is just not right and is not in keeping with the government’s on-going effort to building a gracious, caring and inclusive society.

 

Give love, until it hurts: Let’s take lessons from Mother Teresa

 

I have always admired Mother Teresa for the love and care she had given to the less fortunate in society and I am deeply influenced by her. To better understand the true meaning of providing support and love to our lonely seniors, let us take lessons from the late Mother Teresa.

 

In one episode of her charity work, Mother Teresa went to visit a Hindu mother of 8 children, all of whom who had gone without food for several days. She brought them a small bag of rice. As soon as the mother of 8 children received the rice, she took half the packet of rice and ran out of the house. Mother Teresa was puzzled. When the lady return home, Mother Teresa asked her where she had gone to with half the packet of rice.

 

The lady smiled and replied that she gave the rice to a Muslim family, her neighbor, who like her, had gone without food for days.  Clearly, this Hindu lady knows how to give love – until it hurts.

 

Recently, I came across some painful postings by a young pretty Filipino girl on Facebook, a friend of mine, just 21 years old, but often depressed. She ended up living in a park as her home has been taken away as she could not pay the 2 months’ rent. I comforted her and advised her to value life and to go to church and pray every day – for prayer works wonders.  Then I sent her some groceries from the few books I sold. She was so uplifted, knowing that someone in Singapore cares for her well-being.

 

It is extremely painful to go without food for days, feel abandoned and to come to the reality of being all alone and uncared for in this world. I then searched the Facebook to find her Mayor in Albay, Philippines, and advised her to write to him for assistance. I continue to keep in touch with her, giving guidance and showing care for her.

 

Never underestimate the undying, unconditional love from God

 

I lit a blessed candle for her that night and asked Jesus to help her. The next day, a friend she met at the park brought her to her home to stay, and now at least she will have a roof over her head and probably a decent meal.

  

Staying ‘alive’ to the realities of suicidal depression and other mental disorders

 


 

I had proposed a detailed report on how we can tackle suicides and depression, giving practical and workable solutions, but it appears – real or imagined, that my proposal has fallen on deaf ears. What a sad state of affairs!

 

A monthly allowance to help our seniors cope with living expenses

 

Many of our seniors who are drawn to suicide don’t have money for their daily expenses. Where feasible, I urge the government to provide a monthly allowance of anything between $200 to $300 to our seniors who live all alone.

 

Recreation is also so important for the lonely elderly to find comfort, Surely, some outings by church groups or government agencies can be organized to provide some measure of support.   When my wife was alive, we were fortunate to benefit from such outings that were organized by the Saint Vincent De Paul Society of my church. But now that Doris has died, everything has died with her and I am left all alone to fend for myself.
 

Stay connected through WIFI

 

Often social media can be a useful platform for the lonely elderly to keep in touch with friends and even find new ones. Given the push by the Singapore Government to build a smart nation, shouldn’t WIFI be installed in HDB estates, especially for those who live in flats all alone?

 

Don’t play God by legalising euthanasia, but value life, promote love, support and understanding

 

The media, because of its huge outreach must promote love, understanding and support, bringing people from all races, ages and religions together as one big family. It should in no way cause divisions in society and give undue attention to those who have absolutely no value for life. Only cowards will want to support euthanasia to get rid of seniors who lose the will to live.

 

I was deeply troubled that a regular forum writer wrote about giving euthanasia options to lonely seniors who struggle with sickness and find it difficult to secure support. Who is he to play God? Being a born Catholic, I am deeply offended by his letter which has been published. If suicide is a crime, then why is euthanasia being suggested?  Let us not be a party to abetting a crime.

 

No religion, to the best of my knowledge will support killing oneself.

 

During my 31-year-old career in broadcasting, our journalists were so well trained and such letters or any others causing division or gossip in society would never be published.

 

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew would come down hard on news editors who paint Singapore or her citizens in bad light.

 

So, let’s put a grinding halt to gutter journalism – period.  Minister Iswaran, the ball is in your court.

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Opinion Piece: Artistes should set aside differences, embrace kindness and work towards reconciliation



It is somewhat disturbing to read of the spat between two popular TV actresses (“Pan Lingling's alleged comments on relationships of Hong Huifang's children led to their split” (July 25, 2018, The Straits Times).

Even more troubling now is that a former Ex-MediaCorp actress Julie Tan has joined in the fray – as reported in “Julie Tan hits back after Hong-Pan spat casts spotlight on love life” (The New Paper, July 25, 2018).

Relationships can be so tricky, and even the best of friends can fall out when hurtful words said on the spur of the moment causes anger, bitterness, jealousy, envy and resentment.  Spats can also take place in homes when relationships turn sour.  

Given that these two artistes have a large fan base, it does not augur well for both of them as well as for MediaCorp to vent out their dispute that has caught the attention of the media. Added to that, morale among their fellow artistes can take a beating. If these issues are not handled properly, the reputation of MediaCorp will suffer. We should not allow this to happen to our national broadcasting station.  It would help if the MediaCorp HR department counsels the celebrities involved so that others who feel upset about this spat will not jump on the bandwagon.

MediaCorp has done exceptionally well by showing kindness to the less fortunate in Singapore through their on-going fun-raising shows on TV, programmes that raises awareness of those with special needs and through their staff who do community work.  Such kindness must be ingrained in all their employees.

In all relationships, we need to embrace understanding, forgiveness, love and care for one another, as life is so very fragile. Just read the reports of people in Vietnam and Philippines who are struggling to cope with natural disasters, the collapse of a dam in Laos and the heatwave that has devastated the lives of thousands in Japan to fully understand what an uncertain world we now live in. 

Though these events are mind boggling, we have also seen that out of such human tragedy, it is the milk of human kindness that has united people together –  against the odds.

Many people and organisations will readily step forward to provide that much-needed assistance and give a glimmer of hope to those in chaos.  And on all accounts, it so important to practise the virtue of kindness.

If we want to build a better home here in Singapore – for both locals and foreigners who live here, then everyone of us, including the media, must take on that added responsibility of bringing people closer together and bonding them.  More so when we live in a fast-paced environment with so much uncertainties coming on-stream.

This brings to my mind, my number 1 choice song which is, “Try a little kindness”, sung by well-known country and western singer Glen Campbell.  It is one of my favourite songs because to me, the lyrics bear an important message, a forgotten virtue, often overlooked in this complicated world of increasing stress and strain, greed and selfishness.  The message is one of showing kindness to another. 

The Hollies smash hit, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”, is yet another meaningful song because it too touches on the struggles in life and the apparent need for people to help one another.

That said, I urge both Pan Lingling and Hong Huifang to set aside their differences, don’t hold anymore grudges, embrace kindness and then work towards reconciliation.

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando 

Monday, July 2, 2018

Support , compassion for Raymond & his causes

Through the wonderful support of Rev Father Colin Tan , Parish Priest of St Ignatius Church, I had the opportunity to raise much more awareness of mental llness, promote my novel "Loving A Schizophrenic" and market a book produced by CLUB HEAL, A PLACE IN THE SUN.
 
I was fortunate to raise some funds for my own special needs and medicare care through this promotion. The Parishioners at this church displayed compassion and kindness to me with one elderly lady taking the trou...ble to buy me lunch and a drink as she knew I was dead tired from selling the books the whole day.


Rev Fr Colin Tan went the extra mile and got his IT staff to put out a lovely slide on the monitor and both he and Rev Fr Jerome gave glowing testimonies of the love I had for my late wife to the church goers, even asking at the end of mass how my sales were doing. These are the kind of priests who makes me so proud to call myself a Catholic.


At the church, I met up with the humble and caring Member of Parliament (MP) Christopher De Souza who has bought some of my books. This MP told me that he loves reading my press letters to The Straits Times , Today Newsaper & The New Paper as well as my propdsals to the Government through my blog where from redaing my articles, he gets the chance to implement my ideas and suugestions to the community .


We need these kind of MPs
The MP just sent me an email:


Hi Raymond,
Thank you for sending on the photo. And thank you for your passion for the subject of assisting those with mental illness, and their companions.

With kind regards – and thanks,
Chris de Souza
*******************************
Next up, my talk on schizophrenia at the British Council this Friday.
Have a nice day:)
Sincerely,
Raymond Anthony Fernando

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Very poor and questionable service from DBS Bank


27th June 2018

 

Heng Swee  Keat

Finance Minister

Cc: DPM Tharman

PM Lee Hsien Loong

 

Dear Mr Heng,

 

Very poor and questionable service from DBS Bank

 

I refer to the above matter.

This morning around 8.39am after praying to my late wife and sister in church, I withdrew some money from the DBS Thompson Plaza branch and while the deduction of $1,110 was made, the money did not come out from the machine.

The hotline number manned by the bank staff told me they can only rectify the mistake after investigating the incident and I can only get back my money in two days.  What would happen to the lower income group who need the money urgently for their daily expenses?  Has DBS bank got no compassion at all?

The staff proved most unhelpful and as a result of which I had to wait till 10am for the bank to open its doors before I could lodge an official report. and all my household chores including cooking and washing my clothes were delayed. A lot of customers at the bank in the queue were grumbling why the bank has to start operations at 10am when they ought to do so at 8.30am – just like other banks.

In addition, the bank at Avenue 4 Ang Mo Kio near the 628 market in Ang Mo Kio has taken away all staff, making it most inconvenient for many elderly Singaporeans. In what way is DBS Bank being supportive of our silver haired citizens?

Last month while updating my bank book, the book got stuck in the machine and the bank staff told me I will get back the bank book one week later. What kind of service is this from a bank? The bank boast of top-notch service, but is this any way to do it?
It is abundantly clear to me that the machines which I gather  is managed by a vendor are very badly maintained.

So, what next, wait two days to get my money back, then make another trip to the bank, all on account of poor systems in place?

I would appreciate a speedy reply and an apology from the bank, and an assurance that such incidents will not take place ever again

Thank you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

LOVING A SCHIZOPHRENIC reprinted for the 9th time

I managed to clear one big hurdle in getting sponsorship to do a reprint of my novel, Loving A Schizophrenic .When the 400 reprinted copies come in this week, I will have to jump over the next big hurdle which is to sell as many copies as I can. But with the love of Jesus & my late wife who watch over me, I will overcome and beat all odds. For there will always be kind-hearted people who believe in me and my causes despite the biasness and discrimination person with mental illness face everyday in their lives


Raymond Anthony Fernando
Author , Loving A Schzophrenic

Monday, June 25, 2018


25th June 2018

 

Mr Ong Ye Kung

Education Minister

 

Dear Mr Ong,

 

NUS students alleged stripping and Ngee Ann Poly questionable lap dance

Schools and tertiary institutions must provide moral education and inculcate good vales in students: An open proposal to Education Minister Ong Ye Kung

 

I refer to the press reports on the above incidents and have analyzed and come up with some possible solutions.  NUS and Ngee Ann Poly are reputable institutions and we should not just criticise the wrong doings, as anyone can do that.  

 

Rather, we should, as active citizens, contribute useful ideas to make our home a safe, healthy and conducive environment. We need to build a culture of thinking ‘out of the box’ and have the mindset to engage in creative thinking and problem-solving techniques to help the government of the day build a bright future for all of us.

 

The highly improper behaviour displayed by some students from the National University of Singapore during an unofficial orientation outing at Sentosa and a video recording of two students from Ngee Ann filmed in a less than desirable lap dance places these two educational institutions in the spotlight – but for all the wrong reasons as reported in The Straits Times and The New Paper.


Such unhealthy behavior that has the tendency to promote sex outside marriage, encourage cohobating, promote wrong values, demean women and have adverse psychological effects on the students who were unwilling to participate in the activities must never be condoned.  Some people who are under stress find engaging in sexual behaviour a way to release their pent-up emotions.


While we can allow some form of expression, we should not blindly ape western lifestyles as there must be some levels of decency in the upbringing of students.

Parents invest a great deal on money on education and thus need to be assured that their children are learning the right values.


All schools and tertiary institutions have a role to play in passing on common morality.  To do this, they must provide moral education which should be part and parcel of the curriculum. 


There must be discipline and self-regulations during school terms.   


Educators, through the direction of the Ministry of Education must give moral guidance, rewarding students for doing the right things and punishing them when they step way out of line, as well as modelling good conduct and modelling appropriate reactions to the conduct of others.


Both students and parents need to come together with the educators for open and frank discussions and reflection on the nature and justification of moral values.


Even though it’s a challenge with our youths wanting more freedom, promoting the moral development of the young is vital as relationships handled poorly can lead to much bigger social problems in later life –  be it at the workplace, in homes and in the community.

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO


Footnote: 
Minister has responded positively.

Dear Mr Fernando

Thank you for sharing your views. The IHLs draw a clear line between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors during orientation.  The students can have fun, but activities must always be carried out respectfully and in good taste. For the NUS incident, the students organized the activity outside of campus and it was not part of the orientation program. Notwithstanding, NUS felt that as freshmen were invited to the event, it will take the necessary actions to send a clear message that the activity conducted was inappropriate, and in fact, illegal in Singapore. 

Regards


MOE Ong Ye Kung

 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Perspectives: Staying ‘alive’ to the realities of suicidal depression and other mental disorders : A proposal to Gan Kim Yong ,Minister of Health



Within just a week, two high profile celebrities have lost their lives in a most cruel way.

First, it was fashion designer Kate spade who hung herself and left a suicide note to her teenage daughter. Then it was Anthony Bourdain, Celebrity Chef and CNN food critic who was found dead in a hotel room in France.

Kate Spade, 55 died in an apparent suicide on Tuesday June 5, 2018 while Anthony Bourdain 61, died also from suicide on Friday, June8, 2018. 

Both celebrities had hanged themselves.

I, like many others – worldwide are deepened saddened by these tragic incidents and thus it’s important to keep their loved ones in prayer during this difficult period.


But make no mistake about it – depression and suicide are silent killers.  So too are other mental disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia. Even though these issues are sensitive and delicate, we need to come alive on these matters by discussing it openly and rationally.

 

Some of the risks factors of suicide include:

♦ Loss of interest or pleasure

♦ Insomnia

♦ Decreased appetite

♦ Retardation, fatigue or agitation

♦ Feelings of worthlessness, guilt

♦ Impaired concentration, indecisiveness

♦ Financial distress

♦ Isolation

♦ Personal issues, such as marital problems

 

Relationship can be tricky and not everyone can manage break-ups as it is by no means easy to cope with.  For like grief, the emotional pain from failed relationships can be overwhelming.

 

The other important matter to note is that children and loved ones are in real danger of going through psychological issues as it can be traumatic for them to cope with loss.

 

In yet another horrific incident, the media had reported that a Frenchman had committed suicide at Mecca’s Grand Mosque on Saturday, June 9. There were no details released on the identity of the man, or why he threw himself off mosque roof in Islam's holiest city.

Was it suicide as reported by the press? Or was it a mental illness such as Bipolar that caused the death.

Patients with bipolar can believe that they can fly or do the impossible. It is part of the symptoms of the illness.

A case in point is how Blake LeVine, now aged 35 who as a child believed that he could fly. As a teenager, Blake would spend hours in the library frantically reading all that he could about how humans could take flight. His parents grew so concerned that he would attempt it by jumping off of one of New York City’s skyscrapers that they had him institutionalised. After being hospitalised several times, Blake was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

In another media report, this time by Channel NewsAsia,on June 14, “SCDF rescues woman walking on roof of overhead bridge in Yishun”, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers  had managed to rescue a woman walking on the roof of an overhead bridge.

The woman was brought to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and was arrested for attempted suicide.

Was this suicidal depression or was it a mental illness gone untreated?

We need to have a clear understanding of all types of mental disorders.

 

Family, friends, employers, religious groups and the media all have a part to play in helping depressed people overcome their struggles which can prevent suicide.  We can do this by showing empathy and concern to depressed people coupled with a listening ear; and by being in tune with the warning signs of depression.  We must never dismiss a cry for help as a sign of weakness or view the sufferer as being bothersome.

 

Certainly, suicide survivours can reinforce the message that taking one’s own life is not the solution as treatment is readily available and recovery is always possible.  These valuable sharing experiences can be carried out at schools, workplaces, religious places, community clubs and during talk shows on radio and television networks where these issues can be discussed candidly.

 

Listeners can call in with their questions and shared experiences. It will be good to also invite enlightened employers and marriage counsellors who can give guidance and directions on how to better manage challenges in life’s journey.

In addition, counselling, group therapy and supportive psychotherapy can give encouragement and support to anyone who finds life meaningless.

I should additionally add that there are stress management solutions that are available to provide anonymous education and support which we need to educate more people about.

Let us not wait till the situation gets out of hand and more tragedies take place –for one life lost is one life gone too many.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Opinion piece: Keep alive the realities of mental health issues and suicide, through survivours and talk shows: By Raymond Anthony Fernando



For a lady who was so successful in the fashion industry, it is so hard to believe that Kate Spade would have lost the will to live (“Designer Kate Spade suffered depression for years, husband says”, Channel NewsAsia, June, 7). 

I like many others – worldwide are deepened saddened by this tragic incident and it’s important to keep her family in prayer during this difficult period.


But make no mistake about it – depression and suicide are silent killers.  So too are other mental disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia. Even though these issues are sensitive and delicate, we need to come alive on these matters by discussing it openly and rationally.

 

Certainly, suicide survivours can reinforce the message that taking one’s own life is not the solution as treatment is readily available and recovery is always possible.  These valuable sharing experiences can be carried out at schools, workplaces, religious places and at the community clubs.  

 

Some of the risks factors of suicide include:

♦ Loss of interest or pleasure

♦ Insomnia

♦ Decreased appetite

♦ Retardation, fatigue or agitation

♦ Feelings of worthlessness, guilt

♦ Impaired concentration, indecisiveness

♦ Financial distress

♦ Isolation

♦ Personal iisues, such as marital problems

 

Relationship can be tricky and not everyone can manage break-ups as it is by no means easy to cope with.  For like grief, the emotional pain from failed relationships can be overwhelming. We must never dismiss a cry for help as a sign of weakness or view the sufferer as being bothersome.

 

Instead, family, friends, employers and religious groups all have a part to play in helping depressed people overcome their struggles which can prevent suicide.  We can do this by showing empathy and concern to depressed people coupled with a listening ear; and by being in tune with the warning signs of depression.

 

Radio and television networks can play a supporting role as well, by raising more awareness of mental health issues and suicide through regular talks shows where experts and suicide survivours can discuss these issues candidly.  Listeners can call in with their questions and shared experiences. It will be good to also invite enlightened employers and marriage counsellors who can give guidance and directions on how to better manage challenges in life’s journey.

 

In addition, counselling, group therapy and supportive psychotherapy can give encouragement and support to anyone who finds life meaningless.

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Inspiring & educational talks on mental illness By: Raymond Anthony Fernando




(a) Talk: Understanding Schizophrenia - a talk on a true-life experience


 

In this solid one-hour talk, I will cover my late wife’s 40-year battle with depression and Schizophrenia, the trials and tribulations of our courtship and marriage and her miraculous recovery that enabled her to become an author of 8 books- 4 of which are bestsellers. The talk will also provide an insightful peek into caring for a loved one stricken with mental illness.  I will also provide useful caregiver tips in managing loved ones with mental illnesses and what are the warning signs that people, including supervisors, caregivers, retirees, office colleagues, teachers, students, parents, employers, employees, volunteers and even a layman need to look out for in helping someone cope with Schizophrenia – said to be the most distressing mental disorder.

 

My talk also promotes the sanctity of marriage- caring for a spouse, “in sickness & in health.”

 

The fees I charge for this talk is $250.

 

( b ) Talk: Depression – Beat it, Defeat it

 

In this 45-minute talk, I will cite some of the causes of depression, provide useful tips on how to better manage depression and what are the warning signs that one must look out for in tackling depression.  This talk is also based on my own battle with depression for several years and how I overcame this illness and charted several new directions in life. Today, I am an author of 30 books.

 

The fees I charge for this talk is $250.

 

(c) Workshop: How to turn a life experience into a book.

 

Here, I will give an insight into how budding writers can come up with their first book. I will provide useful tips on the real world of self-publishing.

The fees I charge for this talk is $250.

 

(d) Seminar: The writer, the entrepreneur, the panther

 

A 45- minute talk in which I will provide 16 steps on how writers can market their books based on my own success story.

 

The fees I charge for this talk is $200.

Facilities required:


I require a LCD Projector, laptop that can screen my powerpoint slides onto a screen, windows media player with speakers to broadcast my montage (5.6 minute video), and a table to promote my * books and that of my wife (*if and when our books are available for sale) 


 


Portfolio of Raymond Anthony Fernando
Raymond Anthony Fernando is a motivational speaker, poet, author of 30 books, trainer, songwriter, freelance television actor, ghostwriter, media celebrity and a regular newspaper forum page writer.  He is a volunteer with Silver Ribbon Singapore and the Institute of Mental Health; and is Singapore’s leading advocate for the mentally ill.   The author of 30 books was married to Doris Lau whom he groomed to become an author of 8 books.  Raymond has written on a wide range of subjects through the media and in his books, and it includes real life stories, relationships, marriage, social issues, advocacy, ghost stories, humour, children’s stories, poems, creative suggestions and spiritual content. Raymond who was chosen as Model Caregiver 2007 and Mental Health Champion 2010 is born on Valentine’s Day.  He has contributed 31 years’ service in the public sector, has 15 years’ experience in public relations work and has received several awards and commendations from government organisations.  

 



 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Opinion piece: Bringing distressed people out of despair : By: Raymond Anthony Fernando



It is encouraging that the Catholic News (CN) through the wisdom of Father Roland Rotheiser has written candidly about the delicate subject of suicide (“On Suicide and despair”, CN, May 27, 2018).

Suicide, mental illness and death are often not talked about or discussed openly as they are viewed as taboo subjects. That has to change if we have a genuine desire to give distressed people a ray of hope and to value life.

The salient points raised by Father Rotheiser are very true in every sense of the word as many people view suicide not only as a sin, but a crime.

People are driven to suicide when society and the environment becomes negative, judgemental and uncaring towards their feelings. In such a scenario, they feel a sense of hopelessness and despair when human beings don’t care. And that is where some depressed people grappling with mental health issues often turn to pets that offer them that much-needed solace.

We all need someone or something to walk with us in life’s journey. We just can’t do it alone.

Whatever religion we practice, one virtue is abundantly clear: We have a loving Superior Being who cares for us all.  As Christians, we need the power of prayer to lift the human spirit when we are faced with big challenges in life.

Saving lives should not just be restricted to helping people with physical ailments, but for emotional healing as well. For example, while teaching people the techniques of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person who is in cardiac arrest, just as important, if not more important is how we can teach people the skill of emotional healing in helping someone trying to cope with despair and unworthiness. For positive words and deeds are crucial in helping the depressed cope better.

 

We need supportive employers and colleagues to rally around anyone who has hit rock bottom – and bring the person to get the much-needed help from the professionals.

 

Caregivers of the mentally ill are most vulnerable to suicide as they struggle every day of their lives to balance work and family life – simultaneously.

 

Often, the spoken and unspoken word can make a big difference in rescuing a distressed person or pushing him/her to end his/her life.  We need to build a kinder environment and a kinder society as the internet that makes it convenient for cyberbullying to ruin lives are very real.

 

On a personal note, my attempted suicide in 1995 was most certainly a wake-up call where I had initially given up on life and God. But the kindness, compassion and competence of the surgeon at NUH who saved my life made a huge difference in my life. The words he told me when I opened my eyes will always stay etched in my mind: “Mr Fernando, don’t do this again, because there is always a way out.”  

Indeed, there is always a way out – so let’s embrace hope – even amid uncertainties, big challenges and adversities.

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Timely to promote evangelisation and create a brand-new look for The Catholic News: An open proposal to Archbishop William Goh



“Character cannot be developed in peace and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

- Author Helen Keller -
By: Raymond Anthony Fernando

Given that Parish Priests have a heavy responsibility to serve the many needs of our parishioners, I welcome the decision for the Catholic News(CN) to come under the umbrella of the Archbishop’s Communication Office effective 1st July 2018.

CN is a useful platform for the 300,000 strong Catholics to understand the teachings of Christ as well as to get our brothers and sister in Christ to spread the love of God through the power of evangelism.

Jesus Christ is indeed good news and such good news needs to be told and retold.   As Catholics, we need to embrace evangelism and practice God’s love to everyone we meet.

Let’s spread the word of God through evangelism

There is no question that the world is filled with an appalling amount of evil and suffering.

Bitterness.  Anger.  Frustration.  Depression.  These are some of the emotions people who are going through suffering can display.

Many Christians who are plagued with chronic illnesses, financial difficulties, broken marriages or face mounting problems day in and day out have often asked the clergy these questions: “Why is God making me go through so much suffering?  I have done no wrong.  Why must bad things happen to good people?”

There is comfort in suffering because God can use our sufferings to teach us and make us better people.  Suffering can bring out the best in people, it can test their faith, and it can create the opportunity for them to grow spiritually, to change for the better, and to make a difference in the world.

Often it takes suffering to make us realise the brevity of life, and the importance of living for Christ.  God uses suffering to accomplish things in our lives that would otherwise never be achieved.

Even though we may be going through huge challenges in life or undergoing a great deal of suffering, we must always trust in God because He will always be there to lift us up – maybe not immediately, but in due course. 

This is why it is so important for the Neighbourhood Christian Communities (NCCS) to rally around the marginalised, the elderly lonely and the mentally ill and their caregivers.  NCCs play a vital role in uplifting those who are going through adversities.  NCCs too through supporting this group can also be in a position to evangelise by doing God’s work.

Although Christians appear to love evangelism, sadly, not many take it upon themselves to promote the scriptures from the Bible and God’s ever powerful love, as long as someone else is doing the evangelising.  To this end, it is imperative that as Catholics we need to start preaching the good news over and over again.  One way to do this is through the Catholic News where people – locals as well as foreigners can share their faith journeys.

I have always find it heart-warming to listen to the sermons by some of our Catholics Priests – among them, Father Ambrose Richards, Father Andrew Wong, Father Stephen Yim, Father Henry Siew and Father John Bosco Pereira – just to name a few.    As God’s shepherds, they can all certainly guide their ‘sheep’; encouraging them to become ‘Saints’.  

Less foreign articles, more local stories

I read CN every fortnight and have observed that more often than not, overseas articles get published. While such accounts are needed, CN needs to focus more on localised heartfelt stories, and perhaps give lay Catholics the opportunity to write local stories or opinion pieces, where youths and seniors can actively participate as contributors. If need be, pay them a token sum to encourage on-going participation to keep the publication very much alive. 

There are also many social issues facing Catholics here that includes breakdowns in marriages, addiction, family disputes and caregivers finding it a real struggle to care for loved ones with special needs.

As Christians, I fervently believe that we are called to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, to be a voice for the voiceless, the defenceless, and the most vulnerable in the society.

Government can also rally around all Singaporeans

Separately, it is encouraging that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has assured Singaporeans that the 4th generation leaders will make every effort to reach out to all Singaporeans as reported in Channel NewsAsia today, Friday 18th May 2018 (“4G leaders to engage Singaporeans in series of discussions to chart future together: Heng Swee Keat”).

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/4g-leaders-to-engage-singaporeans-in-series-of-discussions-to-10246704


Mr Heng is indeed a compassionate and caring minister, no airs about him and he makes the effort to understand the needs of all our people. He displays magnanimity towards caregivers of the mentally and this I found to be so true during my short discussion with him during the 1st Singapore conversation.


Poignant stories of resilience need to be unfolded

Getting back to the proposed brand-new look for the Catholic News.

There are also in our midst, Catholics who despite carrying a heavy cross have overcome adversities to come out stronger than ever as they place their full trust in the Lord. Indeed, having a faith makes it much easier to carry a cross.  The more poignant the stories are, the more Catholics will embrace the love of God.

Thus, it is timely with a new team in place on 1st July to have a Catholic newspaper for Catholics, by Catholics. 

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Public Suggestion: Government can lead by example by hiring older workers : An open proposal to newly appointed Labour Chief Ng Chee Meng



By: Raymond Anthony Fernando  

 

It is encouraging that the newly appointed Labour chief Ng Chee Meng has suggested forming a tripartite committee to provide better support for our ageing workforce, and to help mature workers to continue working if they choose to (“Ng Chee Meng pledges to address struggles of low-wage, mature and middle-aged workers, May 15, 2018”, MediaCorp’s Today newspaper).

 

I believe Chee Meng is a suitable choice as he does make the effort to reply, (once through his executive), when I put forward a useful suggestion to him during his stint at the Education ministry. Another minister who is touch with the ground is Heng Chee How who was at one time my mayor, a kind, humble and down-to-earth man.  That is how ministers and MPs can gain the trust and confidence in the electorate.   

 

Indeed, the mindset of employers has to be changed if we want to help older Singaporeans lead more meaningful and productive lives. 

 

When older Singaporeans are unemployed for long periods, for sure they will lose key social support that includes loss in income, little or no recreation and no friends to socialise with.   In the worse-case scenario, depression and serious health issues will surface for this group who are bound to feel isolated and uncared for.

 

Feedback from bosses and companies have revealed that there is a tendency for young graduates and those fresh on the job to job hop and show insufficient workplace enthusiasm and commitment towards their work.

 

Yet, this is not the case with many older Singaporeans and those with special needs, who have stayed loyal to the companies that they have worked for.  In addition, with their wealth of experience, older workers are well positioned to mentor the younger ones. By hiring older workers, they can instill in younger workers that deep sense of company loyalty that will reduce cost whenever staff turnover rate becomes a regular affair. 

 

To lead by example, I propose that the Public Service Division (PSD) starts hiring older Singaporeans. With PSD being the largest employer in Singapore, many displaced older Singaporean workers can once again find employment, purpose in life and contribute to the growth of our economy.

 

With Education Minister Ong Ye Kung inviting Singaporeans to step forward with ideas and suggestions, some of our experience older workers who have contributed in this area to their companies can nurture younger civil servants to embrace ‘bright’ and ‘bold’ ideas.

 

Not all graduates in the public sector have the ability to write well, to articulate their replies to the public is a friendly manner, and where there are policies put in place, know how to explain the rationale behind it.  To this end, hiring older retired Singaporeans who have excellent writing skills will be an assist to the government agencies they serve.

 

PM Lee spoke in Parliament on elitism today, Wednesday 16th May 2018 and I am glad he was surfaced this issue.  Thus, it is vital that all MPs and ministers make the effort to reply to members of the public who take time to drawn up constructive solutions to growing problems. Unfortunately, only a handful of political holders do so. This creates the impression that elitism is still very much alive.

 

We must encourage active citizenry – for it is PEOPLE and IDEAS that make a nation.

I’d like to add here that the provision of part-time work can be offered to allow older workers more flexibility in their work life as they age.

 

On all accounts, we should promote the idea to employers who may be skeptical of hiring seniors, that turning away older workers is a waste of human capital. In working towards achieving this goal, we will gain ground as employers realise that discrimination is wrong – not just for legal or moral reasons, but for business reasons as well.

 

Let’s have enlightened employers who can contribute to making Singapore an inclusive society – where no one is left behind,

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNNADO