Friday, January 30, 2009

THE HEALING LIGHT

I am deeply saddened of the news that Mr. Richard Stanley has been stricken with Leukemia.
This poem that I wrote on 29th January 2009, I hope will help in Mr. Richard Stanley’s recovery.

A poem specially dedicated to Mr. Richard Stanley, CEO of DBS Bank


Dear Mr. Richard Stanley,

You took on the job despite it being an enormous task
Your dedication and commitment will always be remembered
And in my heart, your courage will forever last
Words cannot express my sadness over your falling seriously ill
Don’t despair, Mr. Stanley, trust in GOD
And HE will give you the strength and the will
My wife and I will light a candle for you this weekend
We will pray for your full recovery as best as we can
We will pray for your family members as well
For pain and sadness must be written on their faces
This for sure, I can tell
Through your family’s love and support, miracles can take place
Then the happiness and joy will set upon all of them by God’s grace
My wife and I hope that you will have a full recovery
And when you’re back on your feet again, Mr. Stanley
Hey! Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Sincerely,

Raymond Anthony Fernando
Ă“copyrightraymondfernando2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

MEASURES TO HELP PSYCHIATRIC PATIENTS & THEIR CAREGIVERS



Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone
deeply gives you courage.

- Lao Tzu –
Employment
1. First of all, the government should remove the clause on job application forms asking the applicant to declare if he/she has a history of mental illness, as this in itself is stigmatization. If the government takes the lead, then the private sector will do likewise. How do you expect recovered psychiatric patients to continue their treatment if they cannot find work? Work gives the mentally ill a sense of worthiness and helps a great deal in their recovery because “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop.”

Grants for patients/caregivers
2. Award grants and opportunities that facilitate patients and caregivers to work from home. For example if these citizens can write, sponsorship or funding for their books can enable them to chart new directions in life. If they can bake, provide them with some funding to open/rent a bakery. Then the government and the community, which could include churches, could provide these budding entrepreneurs platforms to market their goods and services.

Raise funds on a National Level for the mentally ill
3. The government should raise funds on a national level for the mentally ill and their caregivers. There are 50,000 civil servants in Singapore and if each one gives just $1 a month, you would have $50,000 per month. The government then matches dollar for dollar and the funds raised can help pay for the needs of the mentally ill and their caregivers. Once the public sector leads by example, the private sector will participate as well. This initiative forms part of community support that will eventually get our society to accept people with mental illness. If funds are raised for physical illnesses such as cancer, heart diseases, and kidney ailments and even AIDS, why can’t money be raised for psychiatric patients? I have raised this matter in the press, including the Catholic News that reaches out to more than 300,000 Catholics, but nothing has been done. Yet we are told to give money to victims of wars and disasters that hit people in other countries. What about the disasters that are taking place right in our own backyard when our citizens lose the will to live? And there have been so many of them that committed suicide. I am sure that if the government takes the lead in this fund raising effort, others will follow suit.

Structural support for caregivers
4. Provide structural support for caregivers and also a caregivers allowance because caregiving of the mentally ill is 24/7 and extremely taxing.

Cooked meal delivery services
5. Major supermarkets in Singapore should implement a cooked meal delivery service or Tingkat lunch/dinner services because with an ageing population, this service will be certainly be in demand. This can create jobs for the elderly and recovered psychiatric patients, as the operators would need kitchen hands, packers, customer service officers and delivery staff.

Good Neighbour Award
6. Introduce a “Good Neighbour Award” scheme that recognizes neighbours who are very supportive of psychiatric patients and their caregivers. Get tough on those who openly discriminate against the mentally ill. Send them for mandatory counselling.

Public Bus Services
7. Public bus companies should support government efforts by entering the grounds of IMH. The 400-metre distance from the present bus stop can seem like 4,000-metres when caregivers have to visit their loved ones daily in IMH. SBS trunk service 88 and feeder bus service 325 should extend their route to enter IMH and pick up passengers. This not only benefits patients and caregivers, but staff who work shifts at IMH. If we want to raise caregiving to a higher level, you must provide improved facilities.

Improvements in the C class wards at IMH
8. The C class wards in IMH are overcrowded- with about 30 patients to a ward. How do you expect patients to recover under such crowded, humid and noisy conditions? After all, the sick go to hospitals to rest, don’t they? Funding from the government will help IMH to renovate and build bigger wards in the C class so that patients can recover under better conditions.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Letter to the Press(NEW PAPER)- 22nd Jan 09 on Mental illness


CARE FOR AGED & MENTALLY ILL
Govt should build more homes and facilities

I refer to the report, “Woman’s body discovered due to foul smell, (The New Paper on Sunday, 18 Jan).

I am deeply troubled by the spate of suicides among the elderly and the lack of support for the mentally ill.

Last year alone, several people suffering from depression and other forms of mental illnesses committed suicide or ended up in jail.

The recent attack on MP Seng Han Thong by a mental patient has cast a deep dent in the efforts of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH), mental health providers and advocates to de-stigmatize mental illness in Singapore.

Although we claim to be a First World country, Third World practices are applied when it comes to mental health care. Why?

Last year it was suggested that supportive neighbours could help prevent suicide among the elderly suffering from depression.

Let’s get real!

This will never take place in Singapore so long as our society is not ready to accept people with mental illness.

All the tragedies that have taken place clearly demonstrate that neighbours will stay miles away from someone suffering from mental illness.

It is therefore timely for the Government to build halfway houses and more mental health homes such as the ones in Bukit Gombak and Pelangi village that are run by SAMH so that we can save and reclaim more lives.

After all, mental patients are also human beings, and like other citizens had also contributed to our economy in the past when they were not ill.

A gracious society is one that looks into the welfare of all its citizens and that must surely include the mentally ill and their caregivers.

Bear in mind what Mother Theresa once said: “ “The biggest disease in the world today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, January 19, 2009

BEACON OF LIGHT


When will the cries of the mentally ill be heard?

A Member of Parliament (MP), Seng Han Thong lies in hospital with 15% burns as his family reels from shock over the arson attack. In another hospital, his attacker, allegedly a 70-year-old former taxi driver awaits his fate in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). Sadly, both these Singaporeans will end up spending the Lunar New Year in hospitals.

Last year alone, many people with mental illness ended up in jail or lost their lives through tragic events. The elderly who are isolated fall into depression and are prone to suicide because they feel that nobody cares for them.

In another recent tragedy, a woman who had no friends and said to be mentally ill was founded dead in her two-room flat after neighbours detected a foul smell coming from her flat. (Sunday New Paper, 18th January 2009).

It was suggested that supportive neighbours could help prevent suicide amongst the elderly suffering from depression. This is not likely to take place in Singapore so long as our society is not ready to accept people with mental illness. All the tragedies that have taken place clearly demonstrate that neighbours will stay miles away from someone suffering from mental illness. A society that is blind and deaf to the suffering of the mentally ill will never be gracious.

I have raised so many issues of the mentally ill in the media, gone on national television and radio and yet the cries of the mentally ill and their caregivers continue to be neglected. I have repeatedly requested that funds be raised for the mentally ill and their caregivers, but no one is willing to take up this suggestion.

In India, a kind-hearted man has set up a halfway house for the mentally ill, and this is not a first world country. Ours is.

I will continue to be a “voice” for the mentally ill and their caregivers because although advocating is a seemingly thankless task, somebody has to feel the pain of this group of neglected citizens. And I take the cue from this famous quote:

“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you
pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”
-
Ralph Waldo Emerson –

Raymond Anthony Fernando
Singapore 560601


BEACON OF LIGHT
A poem in support of persons with mental illness & their caregivers

Together with the citizens of this beautiful land
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 is 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 the Beacon of Light
That will make your days sunny and bright

Raymond Anthony Fernando
Ă“copyrightraymondfernando2005

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Warning signs of mental illness & what helps the mentally ill in their recovery

Based on my 33 years’ of caring for my wife who has recovered from schizophrenia and my own recovery from depression, I would like to share some of the warning signs of schizophrenia and depression, and useful points that can help in the recovery of the mentally ill. These are some very brief tips, but a detailed account of all these useful shared experienced will be outlined in my future book, “The Face Behind the Front.”

Do look out for this real-life experience book!

Warning signs – Schizophrenia
This what takes place when my wife falls into a relapse of schizophrenia.


1. Complains of severe headaches

2. Can’t sleep at night

3. Nervous & frightened

4. Restlessness

5. Deep in thought

6. Overwhelming sadness

7. Difficulty concentrating

8. Recalling unpleasant memories

9. Loss of appetite

10. People are talking about me!

11. The fear factor (becoming fearful of everything)

12. Becomes suspicious

13. Becomes argumentative

14. Believes that robbers are trying to break into the house

14. Has suicidal thoughts


Warning signs of depression

1. Excessive fatigue or disturbed sleep

2. Weight loss

3. Losing interest in everything

4. Difficulty concentrating

5. Failing memory

6. Diminishing sexual interest

7. Inability to experience pleasure, even in situations that are normally pleasurable

8. Feeling worthless- that life is meaningless

9. Having thoughts of suicide

Note: Any change, serious loss or stress- e.g a divorce, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or move to a new home can trigger depression, usually temporary, but sometimes requiring treatment.

CARING FOR THE MENTALLY ILL:
USEFUL POINTS FOR CAREGIVERS



Medicine- Type out a list of all the medications to be taken and display it.

Observe the 3Ps – Patience, Perseverance & Prayer

Medicine- Type out a list of all the medications to be taken and display it.

A big NO, NO to taking slimming bills

Don’t criticize, empathize & Exercise patience

Hugs to Grow

Instill confidence

Share simple skills with them, such as cooking, baking- get them involved

Bring music and laughter in their lives

Have sufficient rest and sleep

Remember important dates, such as birthday, anniversary etc

Take them for walks on the beach, let them listen to the waves

Keep the person free from seeing or reading negative things

Always watch out for warning signs- e.g. can’t sleep, taking too long to bathe, etc

Write letters to give assurance

Prayer and faith

Hide your own feelings when you are sad, as their recovery will be slow. Keep them free from worry.

Fight constipation- give them more fibre, such as cornflakes, veggies


Recreation & outings

In addition to the above, people with mental illness need recreational activities that will enable them to recover and enjoy life to the fullest. On Thursday 8th January 2009, I brought my wife to the Elvis Presley’s 74th Anniversary celebrations. The Singapore First Elvis Presley Fan Club at Hotel Royal organized the Dinner & Dance. There was great entertainment, good food, good company and lots of dancing. The $80 spent for the event was worth every dime and although my wife could not dance because of her severe arthritis condition, she sang to the Elvis tunes sung by Wilson David and swung and clapped her hands in pure delight. The picture taken on this blog clearly reflects her happiness.

Have a faith

Many people have often asked me if GOD helps in the healing of the mentally ill. Well, my answer is Yes & No. No, because if the person falls into a relapse, it is not wise to bring in religion at that stage, because it can confuse the mentally ill person. But when my wife has recovered, I will bring her to church where she enjoys singing the hymns and participating in the prayers.

Caregivers need God in their lives; otherwise their journey becomes very difficult. For me, Jesus has been my strength in my most difficult periods.

Our Catholic community has been very supportive to my wife and I. They have purchased many of our books and our church organized a delightful Christmas party for us in Dec 08. It brought so much happiness to my wife and I. Our kind-hearted Parish Priest, Reverend Andrew Wong, made this possible. The church and kind-hearted Christians have come forward to replace our families who do not find it in their hearts to care for us.

It’s a small, small world

Children have brought enormous joy into our lives. People have the misconception that the mentally ill will harm children. But this is certainly not true. Children give unconditional love and like pets are non-judgmental. On this blog, you will see our former neighbour’s grandchild, Jolene celebrating Christmas in our home.

How much is that doggy in the window?

Pets like dogs or cats help in the healing of the mentally ill as they can build a beautiful bond with the mental patient. The pets give boundless love and are faithful to the owner.

Write to heal

Writing helps us to pen our thoughts and sometimes release the pain in our hearts. Writing helps us to keep the mind actively engaged and patients suffering from mental illness can find meaning in this art and at the same time chart a new direction in life.

Raymond and his wife at a talk given by Raymond on mental illness at the Church of St Mary of the Angels.

Raymond with little Jolene at Christmas 2008.

Raymond and his wife, Doris at Elvis Presley's 74th Birthday Anniversary Dinner at Hotel Royal on Thursday 8th Jan 2009.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Raymond with Singapore's Elvis Presley, Wilson David at the Elvis Presley's 74th Birthday anniversary dinner held at Hotel Royal on Thursday 8th Jan 2009.

Urgent support needed for the mentally ill & their caregivers

I am deeply saddened by the attack on Member of Parliament (MP) Mr Seng Han Thong on Sunday 11th January 2009 by former cabby Ong Kah Chua aged 70 years. From the news reports, it appears that his alleged attacker is a mental patient.

Mr Seng Han Thong has always been a supportive MP and he has helped my wife, Doris Lau and myself during the periods when Doris suffered relapses of her schizophrenia. My wife and I have lit candles for Mr Seng and we will continue to pray for his full recovery.

What is also very disturbing is that the attack on Mr Seng by a mental patient is likely to further alienate psychiatric patients from our society because people will believe that ALL mental patients are violent and trouble makers. This is not true. We must do all that we can to debunk this misconception otherwise we will create enclaves in our society. Let’s face it- Our society is still not ready to accept people with mental illness and I know for a fact that there are thousands of caregivers of mental patients out there who are suffering in silence. I get emails from parents & caregivers pleading to me for help and people have spoken to me about their own stricken loved ones suffering from mental illness when I give talks all over Singapore. So, I know.

Unfortunately, suffers of mental illness and their caregivers are often shrouded in shame. I am very open about my wife’s illness and because of this people come to me because I have the courage and conviction to speak on mental health issues in the press.

But people with mental illness can recover and even excel in life. My wife who has grappled with Schizophrenia for 33 years and also stricken with severe arthritis for the last 3 years is living proof of that. Today, with my unflagging support and love she has recovered and is an author of 4 books; 3 of which are best sellers.

What is urgently needed to tackle mental illness from spreading in Singapore is a holistic approach – Clinical perspective from psychiatrists, recovered patients’ perspective and resilient caregivers’ perspective. It has not been easy for me to change mindsets in Singapore, even among mental health providers. For years, only a clinical and patients perspective has been used. This must change if mental illness is to be tackled properly. If you are a caregiver for a mentally ill family member for the very first time, you will be “groping in the dark” because the symptoms are terrifying.

As I look at it, many mental patients relapse because they do not take their medications or refuse to see the doctors. Then there is no supervision at home or family members abandon them. This is why I have always emphasized that the structural support for caregivers in Singapore is very weak. The government should built halfway houses for the mentally ill and set up databases in the CCs/CDCs to register all mental patients with the view of offering help measures to this group of citizens on a long-term basis. (This was suggested in one of my letters to the press).

AWWA Centre for Caregivers in Singapore in Lorong Napiri should play a part in helping caregivers who look after family members who have mental illness. Sadly, hardly anything is being done for caregivers of the mentally ill.

There is a whole range of ideas/suggestions that I have proposed to the authorities through my letters to the press, but if nothing is done, then the problem of mental illness spreading and destroying lives will escalate further.

The government must be quick to respond to changing patterns and lifestyles and I am very sure that as more retrenchments hit Singaporeans after Chinese New Year, more people will fall into depression.

Are we prepared for this?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Novel: THE FACE BEHIND THE FRONT

Coming your way!

Have you come across people who show one face on the outside and another on the inside? How do you feel when the trust you put in so-called friends has been abused? How do you feel when those whom you trusted, betray you?

What do you do when your job is on the line and when you have fallen by the wayside? What do you do when bosses, seen as “taskmasters” are unsympathetic and demanding?

How do you cope when you have to be a fulltime caregiver and have to find means to earn a decent living to provide for your loved one?

Well, this book written by Raymond Anthony Fernando is for YOU!

“The face behind the front” is the sequel to the author’s bestseller, “Loving a Schizophrenic”. As a solitary caregiver to his wife who has schizophrenia, “The face behind the front” focuses on the author’s many challenges he faces in caring for his loved ones, who include his beloved wife, Doris, mother and twin brother. The book reveals that beneath the mask of a happy face is a hidden face – a face etched with years of emotional pain, suffering and depression.

“The face behind the front” also speaks of the many people that have walked into Raymond Anthony Fernando’s life and they include his classmates, teachers, office colleagues, his friends and his church – people that showed one face on the outside and another on the inside.

If you are a caretaker for your loved ones, “The face behind the front” will inspire you to continue the difficult journey, strengthen your resolve and help you find meaning in a seemingly thankless task. This is a story of a caregiver’s emotional pain and how he overcomes tremendous odds to bring hope to the mentally ill as well as chart new directions in his life. In this book, the author-caregiver also provides useful caregiver tips in managing persons suffering from mental illness.

Look out for this space to check when the book will be out! The book is likely to cost $20.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Talk: How to turn a life experience into a book

Talk: How to turn a life experience into a book
Speaker: Raymond Anthony Fernando


Best-selling Author, Trainer, TV Actor & Motivation Speaker Raymond Anthony Fernando will share and teach the audience how to write a book based on a true-life experience. Raymond’s useful tips and experience has encouraged many budding writers to test new ground and even chart a second career in their lives.

Details are as follows:

Held at NTUC Income Centre, Level 8.
Time: 7pm to 9pm.
Date: Tuesday 3rd March 2009.
Fee: $4 per person.
Registration required.
Call 64777888 (Hotline) or call or SMS Ms Christina Wong at 97546240 with your name, mobile no and email. You can also email Christina at this email: wong2848-ntuc@yahoo.com


Besides this talk, Raymond also gives talks on how to manage mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia & depression. To-date Raymond has given more than 30 talks on these subjects at various organizations.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Little Nyonya - Local Chinese Drama

When you are rich, even if you live on the high mountains, you will have distant relatives visiting you.
However, when you are poor, even if you live in a busy city, no one will pay any attention to you.
- Chinese Proverb -

I like the local Chinese drama, “The Little Nyonya” very much because it paints a very realistic picture of how unkind and wicked some people can be.

My wife and I have been following this series very closely. In fact, this local drama has got to be one of my all time TV shows. Jeanette Aw, Qi Yuwu, Xiang Yun, Joanne Peh and Pierre Png give sterling performances and have brought local Chinese drama to greater heights.

The script has been very well written and it is a very down-to-earth story because money, greed, acts of selfish and unkind behaviour, bullying and lust often tear families apart. One of the most heart-breaking events in this story was when Yuzhu (played by Joanne Peh) lost her sanity at the hands of her cruel husband. This strikes a cord with me.

I believe that sometimes when it comes to money, or the greed of money, there is no such thing as family. I also see in this drama that if you do wicked things, sooner or later, you will get punished.

People are sometimes driven to mental illness because of selfish, bullying jealous and callous behaviour.

These real-life incidents have shown me that my wife’s own battle with schizophrenia would not have taken a turn for the worse if family support was good from day one. Unfortunately she lived with a domineering sister who often bullied her. So my advice for people who are caught in such an environment is: “Stay away from broken people.”

I hope MediaCorp TV will continue to produce more such heartfelt real-life dramas that will touch our lives.

Love of my life

“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.”
- Mother Teresa -

A glowing tribute to my lovely wife, Doris Lau Siew Lang

I have been married to Doris for more than 33 years and I treasure her so very much. She has been such an inspiration to me. Despite the huge challenges I face in caring for her as she copes with schizophrenia and severe arthritis, there is no other woman that can replace her in my heart. Doris is a beautiful human being and always puts me before self.

I have grown to love Doris so deeply as I witness how schizophrenia has ravaged a major part of her life. It is through my wife’s illness that I have learnt to appreciate her even more. Having seen how much the illness has tormented her life, I know only too well the sufferings of caregivers who struggle to keep their own sanity. And there are thousands out there who are suffering in silence. This is why I have become a staunch advocate for the mentally ill. For unless you travel this journey, you don’t know, and many sometimes, you don’t care.

I am indebted to Doris because it is through her illness that I can bring hope to thousands out there who lead an isolated life. Our society is still not ready to accept people with mental illness and that is why my advocating continues.

It is a sad state of affairs in Singapore that very little is being done to look into the welfare of the mentally ill and their caregivers. We have a Centre for caregivers in AWWA, but I do not see much being done for caregivers of the mentally ill. Why?

In Singapore, funds are raised for all kinds of illness, which includes cancer, heart diseases and even AIDS, but nobody has found it in their hearts to raise funds on a large scale for people with mental illness. Why?

It is through my wife’s 33-year battle with schizophrenia that I have become a successful author, motivational speaker and trainer. Many people have told me that it is because I love my wife unconditionally that God has blessed me with many talents and that includes acting on TV, venturing into songwriting and inspiring readers with my heartfelt poems.

I also ghostwrite true-life stories for people wanting to chart new directions in life. I have ghostwritten one such book for a lady who also suffers from schizophrenia. Another lady has approached me to write about her true-life experience with another mental disorder faced by a family member.

I have edited several books for authors and have made those books marketable.

Doris, you are indeed my soul and inspirational. Simply put, you are, “THE LOVE OF MY LIFE.”

Sincerely,

Raymond Anthony Fernando

The Elvis connection

In less than a week’s time, we will be celebrating Elvis Presley’s 74th anniversary. Elvis has made such an impact on so many people in the world; myself included.

As a tribute to the late King, I have composed this poem for Elvis and hope readers will enjoy reading this tribute penned straight from my heart in 2004.

The Elvis connection:
A tribute to the late Elvis Presley
(1935-1977
)
Many contenders,
Many pretenders,
Many impersonators
They all want to sing,
Like the king
They seek fame,
Elvis, they want to be associated with your name
The sideburns,
The pouting lips,
The shaking hips,
Elvis, you wooed them all
And fans had a ball
Your songs that are solid gold,
Millions of records that you sold
Elvis, you gave us the magic,
You gave us the music
"Are you lonesome tonight?” "It's now or never",
" Jailhouse rock" and countless hits that makes everyone tick
Elvis, you gave us the memories
That will last for centuries
Sincerely,
Raymond Anthony Fernando
@copyrightraymondfernando2004