Contributed by RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO –
It takes a village to raise a child. Likewise, it takes a community to build mental health and resilience
At the Singapore Mental Health Conference 2014, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong who was the guest-of-honour, stressed the importance of the community–including friends and family, grassroots workers and general practitioners–in playing a part in identifying and taking care of mental patients. I fully agree with him as this has always been my position.
It is an encouraging and healthy sign that Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has seen the importance of community support when it comes to helping in the care of psychiatric patients.
Besides the support provided by friends, family and neighbours, grassroots leaders can help the mentally ill greatly by working with the Members of Parliament, who are serving the needs of the residents. Grassroots leaders are also the “eyes and ears” of the government.
Mental illnesses, because of their complex nature, need to be understood clearly as there are currently many myths associated with the different types of mental illnesses.
While psychiatrists can help patients stabilise their conditions with medication, they do not live with their patients 24/7; and thus they will not be able to fully understand how families of the mentally ill cope on a daily basis.
Besides mental healthcare professionals, patients who have successfully walked the journey can help grassroots leaders demystify mental illness. Most certainly, a holistic approach where different perspectives (from doctors, recovered patients and caregivers) are presented, will enable grassroots leaders to better understand mental illnesses like depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Thus, it would be good if the Residents’ Committees and even the Community Development Councils are open to the idea of inviting caregivers and patients to give talks at their centres to raise awareness of mental illness.
By Raymond Anthony Fernando
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