Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Open Community Labs Application: Education on depression and schizophrenia to migrant workers and domestic by Model Caregiver Raymond Anthony Fernando


From the desk of Model Caregiver Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

7th December 2017

 

To whom it may concern


 

Dear Sir/Madam,



Working or studying or abroad comes with a wide range of emotions. Happy, excited and thrilled for the opportunity to live in another country and meet people of different races and cultures, but at the same time feeling homesick and grappling with separation anxiety later when the excitement wears down. 

For foreigners – whether they are migrant workers or domestic helpers, the most crucial part of adjusting to life in a different country is during the first three months. This group will begin to show signs of homesickness and being without their loved ones after a couple of months; and then they could be struggling with anxiety disorders which in the worst-case scenario could lead to depression.

While local can easily reach out to their families, it is more difficult for foreigners to do so as some could be bottling pent-up emotions.

In the case of domestic helpers, they work long and draining hours to serve the many needs of their employers, who at times can be demanding. The helpers could be suffering in silence and may not be aware that they could be showing classic signs of some mental disorders or even becoming suicidal. We have read media reports of maids either harming their charges or harming themselves when they are unable to cope.

But if migrant workers or helpers are able to fully recognize the symptom of their stress levels, they as well as their employers may be able to save or reclaim a life.

 

As part of my on-going public education of mental illness in which I have got 40 years hands-on experience in taking care of my late wife who had coped with schizophrenia, I go all over Singapore on my own accord or at times partnering IMH or VWOs to educate people on mental illness conditions.

I enclose a document from IMH confirming my commitment in this area.

I would love to reach out to migrant workers and domestic helpers and if need be to their employers to educate, inspire and motivate everyone to be in a good position to manage mental illness.

 

(a) Schizophrenia


In this 45-minute talk, I will cover my wife's 37-year battle with schizophrenia and depression, the trials and tribulations of our courtship and 37-year marriage and her miraculous recovery. The talk will also provide an insightful peek into caring for a loved one stricken with mental illness. I will also provide useful caregiver tips in managing loved ones with mental illnesses and what are the warning signs that people, including supervisors, caregivers, retirees, office colleagues, students, parents, employers, employees, volunteers and even a layman need to look out for in helping someone cope with schizophrenia – believed to be the most distressing mental disorder.

My talk also promotes the sanctity of marriage- caring for a spouse, " in sickness & in health."

(b) Talk: Depression, Beat it, Defeat it

 
In this 45-minute talk, I will cite some of the causes of depression, provide useful tips on how to better manage depression and what are the warning signs that one must look out for in tackling depression. This talk is also based on my own battle with depression for several years and how I overcame this illness and charted several new directions in life.


Facilities needed

I require a LCD Projector, laptop that can screen my power-point slides onto a screen, windows media player with speakers to broadcast my montage (5.6-minute video), and a table to promote a book on real life experience of persons who have been healed from mental illness.



PORTFOLIO OF RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando is a motivational speaker, poet, author, trainer, songwriter, freelance television actor, ghostwriter, media celebrity and a regular newspaper forum page writer.  He is a volunteer with Silver Ribbon Singapore and the Institute of Mental Health; and is Singapore’s leading advocate for the mentally ill.   The author of 30 books was married to Doris Lau whom he groomed to become an author of 8 books.  Raymond has written on a wide range of subjects through the media and in his books, and it includes real life stories, relationships, marriage, social issues, advocacy, ghost stories, humour, children’s stories, poems, creative suggestions and spiritual content. Raymond who was chosen as Model Caregiver 2007 and Mental Health Champion 2010 is born on Valentine’s Day.  He has contributed 31 years’ service in the public sector, has 15 years’ experience in public relations work and has received several awards and commendations from government organisations.  

 

May I look forward to securing the $1,000 sponsored project? And to get a reply from you – soonest. Thank you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Letter to The Catholic News: Education, advocacy effective in removing stigma on mental illness




My press letter to The Catholic News on the above matter is published this weekend, and will reach out to 300,000 Catholics in Singapore  

 

I refer to the report, Discussing discrimination surrounding mental illness, (CN, November 26).

 

The move by Clarity to create a platform for people to talk openly and share personal stories about mental health issues is the step in the right direction.

 

More of such discussions and sharings by those who have walked the journey and have stayed resilient in the face of adversity can help a great deal in eradicating stigma, as well as paving the way for family members to embrace caregiving as a noble job.

 

All of us in the mental health community need to raise our voices against stigma – in every possible way.  Stigma prevents people struggling from mental health issues from seeking help.

 

Wrongful assumptions that persons with mental illness cannot recover must be corrected. This is where advocates should come out in full force to debunk this misconception. Combating stigma is by no means an easy task. Stigma leads to discrimination where sufferers of mental disorders become isolated and are the prime target of all kinds of humiliating remarks within the community and at the workplace.

 

Most people fear what they don’t understand. In the case of mental illness, a lack of understanding can give the wrong impression that all psychiatric patients are violent and cannot function properly.  This is far from true as there are many success stories of how recovered patients are contributing as useful members of society through the support, love and care of their caregivers.

 

The media has an important role to play in de-stigmatising mental illness as it can so easily sway peoples’ thinking.  Patients and caregivers are the best people to speak out against stigma.  By expressing their thoughts and opinions through public forums, letters to the media and on social media, they can gradually change perceptions of the mentally ill.  

 

In managing a loved one with mental illness, it is important to observe the 3Ps –Patience, Perseverance and Prayer. 

 

Recovery from mental illness takes time, so be patient and don’t set your expectations too high.  Above all, don’t get discouraged.  Some days will be worse than others, but just like the clouds, these will pass away. 

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Singapore

More concreate measures needed to protect the vulnerable: An open public suggestion to the Singapore Government




It is troubling to read reports of how a couple had systematically abused and caused grievous hurt to 26-year-old Annie Ee Yu Lian for 8 months, which eventually led to her death (“14, 16.5 years’ jail for couple who tortured tenant to death”, December 1, 2017, MediaCorp’s TODAY Newspaper).

Ee had borderline intelligence and the couple knew about her condition.

The vulnerable in our society who include those with mental illness need far better protection and support.

To this end, I would like to propose some suggestions to help improve the structural support for this marginalised group.

Appoint Estate Mental Health Ambassadors (EMHA) to serve in the respective estates.

♦ Firstly, I propose we train suitable people in the neighbourhoods on mental illness by well-established mental health providers who could include professionals from the Institute of Mental Health, Silver Ribbon Singapore and the Singapore Association for Mental Health.   After they are trained, they can be appointed as Estate Mental Health Ambassadors (EMHA) to serve in the respective estates.

These trained EMHAs whose contact numbers can be given on HDB notice boards, community clubs and on a given website can be contacted to help anyone grappling with mental illness. 

It must be made abundantly clear to both the EMHAs and the person/s being helped that patient confidentially will be respected at all times.

As it is difficult to secure volunteers, an allowance can be given to the EMHAs for their time, efforts, meals and paper work every time they handle a case. The funds can come from the community clubs and all cases must be handled with privacy and confidentially on the person being helped.  Once a case has been handled professionally, the EMHA submits a simple report to the grassroots leader to make a claim.  Such allowances can also come from any charity or organisation that supports mental health.

Vital to ensure psychiatric patients don’t default on their medical appointments /medications

♦ Secondly, mental health providers need to ensure that those with mental health issues keep to their medical appointments and counselling. For example, the Community Psychiatry Department of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) must constantly keep in touch with patients so that they do not default on their treatments and medications.  If need be, part-timers with some basic knowledge of mental illness can be hired by IMH, with funds provided by the Health Ministry.

Collaborations

(a)Tie-ups between HDB, MSF and MPs/Mayors

♦ Whenever a registered flat owner takes in a tenant, it is compulsory that the HDB is informed. Therefore, my third proposal is that both the HDB and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) are kept duly posted when the flat owner rents out a room to anyone with any vulnerable condition. In doing so, the tenant with special needs can be closely monitored by MSF, and abuse can be prevented.  The respective Member of Parliament (MP) and Mayor can be kept informed.

 (b) MPs and Mayors need to stay connected to residents

♦ Last, but not least, it is important for Members of Parliament, Mayors and their grassroots leaders to stay in touch with the residents so that they are in a good position to understand sentiments on the ground. They can do this either through quarterly home visits or tea or breakfast sessions at the nearest void decks where the residents live.  This is also an opportune time for the elected officials to get to know the residents better – and to explain government policies and directions, if any.

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

Friday, December 1, 2017

Opinion: Touch has the right touch for the new mental incapacity scheme




With a fast ageing population coming on-stream that might see more seniors becoming mentally incapacitated, I applaud the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) for being proactive in developing the Community Kin Service for people who are unable to make decisions on their finances (Social workers can get powers to manage seniors’ finances and Touch staff are like family, says 85-year-old widow; November 30, 2017).

Every one of us has a one percent chance of developing mental illness, but that figure is expected to go up amid global challenges, uncertainties, relationship issues and rising costs.

It is always a challenge to leave money in the hands of people or organisations we are unfamiliar with, but with the safeguards that have been put in place by MSF, seniors aged 60 and above can be assured that their money is in safe hands.

The Touch Community Services has always been very supportive of the elderly and the needy.

The staff of Touch Senior Activity Centre are caring, loving, trustworthy and above all committed in taking care of the elderly and those in need.

On a personal level, my late wife, Doris and I have benefitted much from Touch Home Care whose staff are patient, understanding, supportive and who go the extra mile in bringing on smiles to their beneficiaries.

Certainly, one such person from Touch Home Care who has so much love in her for those facing challenges is Occupational Therapist Ms Sandy Goh who was recently promoted to Manager of Touch Home Care in Jurong. Sandy took great pains to provide a safe home environment for my late wife Doris who had mobility problems in the last stages of her life.



Raymond Anthony Fernando 

Opinion: The Royal Romance; a match made in heaven



The whole world is talking about it; the media is running so many reports on the royal romance of Prince Harry and his future wife, America actress Meghan Markle.

When couples are able to give back to society and give love to those in need, somehow or other, beautiful relationships can emerge, as with the case of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (The Life Section of The Straits Times, November 29, 2017).

Prince Harry has followed in the footsteps of his beloved mother Princess Diana by focusing on doing charity work, in particular to support the welfare of military veterans and carrying on the legacy of his late mother’s work by helping those with Aids and those grappling with mental health issues. 

Clearly Prince Harry’s love for his mother lives deep in his heart as he got the designers to use two diamonds from Princess Diana’s personal jewellery collection to design the beautiful engagement ring for his bride.

His fiancĂ©e, Meghan has much love for the human race too.  She is very much involved in charity work. In 2016, she became a World Vision Global Ambassador after making a trip to Rwanda where she was involved in the new clean water pipeline.

With the couple possessing a shared love for charity work, society will benefit and with their dedication and commitment, it will surely inspire and motivate others to step forward and give back to society – so that the world will be a far better place to live in.

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Public education on mental illness must be on-going with structural change to support patients and their caregivers: An open article to President Halimah Yacoob & the Singapore Government




 I am so often moved by the love dedicated caregivers of the mentally ill show to their care recipients, and the hours they spend offering help and support to help them in their recovery. Believe me it is no easy task!

 

Their heart-breaking stories are representative of the many voices of caregiversthe mothers, fathers, children, sisters and brothers who often choose to remain out of the public eye due to the nagging mental illness stigma.  The hardest part of being a caregiver other than making sacrifices and neglecting their own care is doing so all the time with a pure heart and never failing to pray. Having a faith is so important for caregivers. Whatever religion caregivers’ practice, having a faith can make the caregiving journey so much lighter.

 

I heard someone mention that caregiving is “love in action,” a description that relates pretty well with me. The selfless love that caregivers express every hour of every day is so important to the well-being of others, but it’s also important that caregivers remember to take care of themselves.

 

Many people have asked me how I managed to take care of my late wife who battled schizophrenia for 40 long years. Their supplementary question:  Who took care of you, Raymond during those 4 decades?  My answer is simple – Jesus.  The Lord had been watching me all those years and He continues to do so as I try to rebuild my life.

 

Help for mentally incapacitated elderly with no family support

 

I applaud the Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Desmond Lee for taking the initiative to provide a useful scheme to help people who are mentally incapacitated.  In a report on Channel News Asia, “More help for mentally incapacitated elderly with no family support” on 29th November 2017, seniors aged 60 years and above who have lost their mental capacity and who lack family support will be given the option to turn to the Voluntary Welfare organisations (VWOs) to make important decisions regrading their finances.  Under strict criteria, the VWOs will have to apply to the court to carry out this task. This scheme will be launched in early 2018.

On-going public education on mental illness and structural changes to support caregivers are much needed

In anticipation that seniors may become mentally incapacitated or even prevent them from falling into this predicament, it is vital to provide them with an excellent support system from day one, including those who are caregivers who have the unenviable task of taking care and managing loved ones with mental health conditions.

It breaks my heart to read reports of people who are struggling with intellectual disabilities being abused. It can be extremely stressful taking care of someone with mental illness.  Tempers can so easily flare up and anger management takes a beating.

Over the last 8 years, I have gone all over Singapore, most of the time on my own accord, and at times partnering the Institute of Mental Health and occasionally a VWO to educate the public on depression and schizophrenia where I provide useful caregiver tips on bringing patients to a recovery. To date, I have given more than 100 talks all over Singapore.

I want to reach to more segments in the community that includes places of worship and the Community Development Councils. But I face lots of hurdles in wanting to do so.

My friends tell me to keep knocking on doors, and one day some will open their doors. I hope that day arrives, sooner than expected.

The reality is that everyone of us has a one percent chance of getting mental illness, but I am sure that this figure has risen given the uncertainties and challenges in a globalised competitive world coupled with rising costs that many cannot cope with.

Bringing mental health public education overseas

I read a report which documents that in the Philippines in 2015, 7 Filipinos commit suicide every day, and I am sure that figure would have risen by now. 

In Malaysia too, many people are also grappling with mental health issues and so in Indonesia.

With my knowledge and expertise in mental health issues, coupled with my passion and commitment on mental health issues, I hope to reach out to these ASEAN neighbours and help their citizens to manage mental health issues much better.

Nothing is impossible if we put relentless effort in what we believe in.  Adopt the attitude that ‘We should live a life with no regrets’ and that, we can achieve. With that I leave all my readers to ponder over this poem which I specially wrote for my advocacy work.

 

Beacon
A poem in support of persons with mental illness and their caregivers

Together with the citizens of our beautiful lands
I will walk with you – hand in hand
I will travel near and far
To remove the mental illness stigma
There will be no mountains too high to climb
No rivers that are difficult to cross
I will guide you all the way
I will ensure that you'll never be lost

Do not be afraid to let go
I care for you
This virtue I want you to know
Feel no more pain
Have no more fear
For soon – the sky will be clear

I will help you all cope
And bring forth to you –renewed hope
I will be your beacon – your guiding light
That will make your days sunny and bright

Sincerely,

Raymond Anthony Fernando
© copyrightraymondfernando2005

 

Thank you for your time, Madam President, and I look forward to your support in helping me fulfill my passion so that we can all save and reclaim lives.

 

Sincerely,

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando

 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Raymond Anthony Fernando’s letter to The New Paper: Offer kind words to MRT staff



My letter on the above matter is published in The New Paper today, Thursday 23 November 2017.

 Following the train collision (at Joon Koon MRT station) last week, the authorities have done the right thing by taking steps to tackle the causes of the accident.

While there has been some disruption of train services, I applaud the companies that have provided alternative modes of transport to ferry their workers from the affected MRT stations to their work place and back.

This means that productivity and staff morale will not be compromised, and private bus operators can benefit from the additional revenue earned.

We also have to remember that by and large, the MRT has served us well over the years.  And it will help to say a few kind words to the staff, to lift their spirts.

We need to pull together as one people, one nation during such challenges.

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO