I have so much admiration for Prince Harry who is a staunch supporter of persons trying to cope with mental illness (‘You have to talk about your mental health’: Prince Harry to young Singaporeans” Channel NewsAsia; June 5, 2017).
Generally, there is a lack of empathy and understanding in society towards the mentally ill, and people, especially Asians, feel uncomfortable to discuss mental health issues. It is rare that a family member will speak candidly of their loved one grappling with a mental health condition. This unwillingness to be associated with mental illness is perhaps understandable given the social stigma within the community towards such conditions.
Many people do not realise that prolonged armed conflicts, terrorism and the succession of horrific natural disasters have and will trigger traumas that will make it difficult to cure in many survivors. If mental illness is not properly managed, it will rip families apart, and the suicide rate is bound to go up. Sadly, all too soon, the mentally ill will be viewed at a burden to society.
For a member of the royal family like Prince Harry who has openly spoken about his sadness over his late mother’s tragic accident, and for a staunch advocate of the mentally ill, we should heed his advice and be brave enough to talk about mental health issues at various platforms – at the workplace, in schools, at religious gatherings and even in Parliament.
To this end, I suggest that mental health topics be raised through talks at the office every quarter or better still every month. Why wait only until October every year during the world mental health day celebrations to talk on mental health issues? Invite professionals as well as experienced caregivers who have walked the journey to share their success stories with the objectives of raising more awareness of mental health issues – and to motivate and inspire everyone to accept that such conditions will be part and parcel of an increasingly urban lifestyle.
I agree wholeheartedly with Prince Harry that ‘social media, the Internet, and everything else, a lot of false realities are thrown down young people’s throats.”
There is a misconception that persons with mental illness do not have economic value. This is so wrong because there are many success stories of people with such conditions who have contributed much to society. And we can take the cue from Prince Harry who rightly pointed out that when talking about mental health issues, it does not necessary have to be a sad story.
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO
PROFILE OF THE WRITER
Raymond Anthony Fernando is a motivational speaker, poet, author, trainer, songwriter, freelance television actor, ghostwriter, media celebrity, regular newspaper forum page writer and an advocate for the mentally ill.
He is a volunteer with the Institute of Mental Health. The author of 32 books was married to Doris Lau Siew Lang, herself an author of 8 books. Doris was called to the Lord in April 2014. This Model Caregiver 2007 and Mental Health Champion 2010, who is born on Valentine’s Day, has contributed 31 years of service to the public sector, 15 years of experience in public relations work, and received several awards and commendations from government organisations.
Raymond attributes his success to his beloved wife, Doris, who has always been his greatest inspiration.