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


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