Contributed by RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO –
Neighbourhood Watch Groups, MPs and grassroots leaders must reach out to the mentally ill to build an inclusive society
Minister of Social and Family Development (MSF), Minister Chan Chun Sing mentioned in Parliament on 8th October 2014 that children whose parents have mental illness or a history of violent behaviour are watched by his ministry.
MSF Minister Chan gave this reply to Member of Parliament (MP) Janil Putucheary who raised the issue of care-giving arrangements for parents with mental illness. It is helpful that our MPs are beginning to raise the plight of the mentally ill in Parliament.
I share the view of Minister Chan that the community needs to play its part by being vigilant and alert the authorities when they come across children in vulnerable circumstances.
However, given the nagging social stigma that plagues the mentally ill, not everyone be will be so kind and step forward to help because the reality is that persons with mental illness are often seen to be trouble makers and cannot contribute to society. These myths must be corrected as every citizen in this land must be cared more.
Persons with mental illness may not know how to reach out for help as some could not have access to computers, are illiterate, do not have the luxury of buying newspapers and hardly have any friends or neighbours who would want to associate with them.
Caring for a loved one with mental illness is never an easy task for dedicated, tireless and selfless caregivers who are undoubtedly unrecognized unsung heroes who go through a whole range of emotions.
To this end, I propose that Neighbourhood Watch Groups (NWGs) be formed in every two block of flats in our housing estates with the grassroots leaders and the respective MPs providing the much-needed support and advice. MPs who are elected to serve the people must do just that – serve the people – all people.
With monthly visits to the residents, it helps to build rapport between the residents and government officials and at the same time be able to reach out to vulnerable groups who may be in dire need of social support.
As the world celebrates World Mental Health Day this year, let us as a caring community and government touch the lives of those who do not have a voice while suffering in silence. Let’s reach out today!
By RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO
Raymond Anthony Fernando is an advocate for the mentally ill. He volunteers with the Singapore Association for Mental Health, Silver Ribbon Singapore, CLUB HEAL and the Institute of Mental Health. He is Model Caregiver 2007 and Mental Health Champion 2010. Raymond attributes his success to his beloved wife, Doris, who has always been his greatest inspiration.
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