Raymond’s letter to The New Paper is published today on page 21, Wed 30th November 2011.
I’m not at all surprised at the way cat lovers and netizens on forums like Stomp have demanded that Madam Hamidah’s husband, Mr Michael who suffered a relapse of his bipolar condition, be taken to task for his actions.
But some of the comments on Stomp are far from kind. What is the point of showing love to animals, when we are so unkind to a human being who has fallen ill with a mental disorder that is so unpredictable? Bear in mind that the couple do love cats - otherwise they would not have adopted four cats, would they?
Given the findings of a study by the Institute of Mental Health which reveal that one person in 10 will suffer from some form of mental illness, it is imperative that we cast out nets wider to reach out to everyone in our society.
The key to tackling mental health issues is to secure a better understanding of the illnesses.
One way would be to set up a public funded website for people to do a self-assessment for potential mental health problems.
Make the exercise confidential and available in the four main languages.
The questions asked can be designed to review one’s situation with regard to some of the more common mental health issues including, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, addiction and so on.
Such a screening will not provide a diagnosis, will but will give guidance as to where help can be sought.
It can be managed by experts who should be able to help the person doing the tests decide whether to go for treatment or not.
Grassroots leaders and the Community Development Councils should reach out to the lonely elderly, the vulnerable groups and those who do not have access to computers and carry out face-to-face assessment of residents.
For this, grassroots leaders should be trained in mental health.
There should also be a system in place to ensure that patients under psychiatric care do not default on treatment and medications.
Madam Hamidah is going to go through some challenging times, so let’s learn to rally around her, instead of giving her more stress.
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO