Sunday, March 4, 2018

Provide more funds for VWOs on mental health education & support: A compassionate appeal to the Finance & Health Ministers for Health

5th March 2018

As correctly pointed out by Ms Ho Wen Qi, people trying to cope with mental illness have been unfairly labelled with all sorts of degrading names (Mental health awareness starts with being inclusive; Feb 28, 2018, The Straits Times). Some of these other demeaning names include calling them, psycho, siow, freak.

Although public education on mental illness has been undertaken periodically in recent years, the pace of progress has not been quick enough – as it ought to be. Generally, awareness of mental health issues is highlighted during the month of October, which is when mental health day is celebrated. 

But given that stigma and discrimination occur almost daily, it is imperative that more public education has to be carried all year round and reaching to every sector of the population.

Clearly the mass school shooting in Florida could have been avoided if proper measures and support were in place. An educational campaign is needed to counter the idea that people with mental illness are violent murders by presenting statistics revealing that homicide rates are similar among people with mental illness and the general public.

Silver Ribbon Singapore has been doing good work by conducting talks, forums and campaigns on mental illness, but just like the other mental health voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) such as Club Heal, it is in dire need of funds and resources. To this end, it is important for the supporting ministries to assist these VWOs with the much-needed funds. They need funds and resources to pay for a suitable venue with a PA system and equipment in place, payment for both speakers and part-timers to assist in the events, along with money for refreshments.

Some of the most brilliant and creative minds are people who struggled with mental illness and they include Sir Winston Church Hill, Vincent van Gogh and John F Nash, Jr.

We also have success stories of Singaporeans who have overcome mental illness and gone on to contribute positively to society, some of whom have become staunch advocates. They are the right people to combat stigma and change mindsets.

With Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s assurance at the recent budget package that the government is committed to building a caring society, I hope the mentally ill and their caregivers can see a ray of hope. We need to build strong minds that can so easily translate to strong lives.  


Raymond Anthony Fernando

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