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

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