Rita Goh Blog
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Wednesday, February 07, 2007
The Silent Anguish of Mental Patients
I would like to highlight the plight of recovering and recovered mental patients in Singapore. Besides employment difficulties, the second difficulty for mental patients is that insurance coverage is largely unavailable to us here both from the public and private sectors, although such cover exists in the United States and Japan.

MediShield, the government insurance scheme for hospitalization for catastrophic illnesses, is not available to the mentally ill.

And when the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced in March last year a list of chronic ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and stroke for which patients could now dip into their Medisave nest egg to pay for outpatient treatment, mental illness was once again left out.

At the same time, the majority of private insurers such as AIA and NTUC Income, continue to leave mental illness out of their health insurance umbrella

Mental patients really face a double blow. It is already near impossible to get insurance coverage for their illness, but they also find insurers looking the other way when they want to buy coverage for other critical – physical – illnesses.

The patients’ plight is also largely unheard because, shrouded in stigma, most are afraid to speak out. The financial difficulties many go through makes life even tougher.

But a few mental patients are speaking up, in the hope that their appeal for financial help will be heard. Now that you know the difficulties faced, all of you can write to the press through the forum. The more people write, the greater the voice will be.
posted by Rita Goh @ 11:42 AM   0 comments  
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Mental demons and the power of faith
My friend Anna overcame abuse, depression and shame to inspire others to heal themselves.

Anna had a shadowed past – a past that was scarred by sexual abuse at the age of 8, several suicide attempts, joining a Korean cult, the Moonies, at age 17 and manic breakdowns.

Today, she had no more relapses and has stopped visiting her psychiatrist completely. Anna attributes her full recovery to religion – her saving grace.

Anna says: ‘It was during one of my prayer sessions with a friend that I saw a vision of my father’s mistress, and that caused me to be very agitated. My friend told me, ‘The Lord wants you to forgive her.’

It was then, she claims, that she realized that the root of her mental illness was all her pent-up hatred towards the woman, and not science’s explanation of a chemical imbalance.

That epiphany, she says, set her free, and her recovery from then on was miraculous.

On a personal note, I would advice that one should not stop seeing his or her psychiatrist without consent.
posted by Rita Goh @ 12:52 PM   0 comments  
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Consumers and Employment in Singapore
Can a person recovering from mental illness work? The answer is “yes. In fact, they should be encouraged to work as research has shown it helps tremendously in the recovery process. During the recovery process, work helps the patient re-adjust back to society. Having a routine and things to do helps him regain a grasp on reality. When the illness is stable, work helps to give the person a sense of reward and satisfaction – just like it does for all of us.

The reality is that recovering or recovered mental patients face much difficulties getting a job. Unfortunately, there is discrimination in the workplace in Singapore unlike the US. For example, a question commonly found in employment application forms asking whether the applicant has a history of mental illness. Let’s say, I answer ‘yes’. What do you think the chances of me being employed? Very slim, right? On the other hand, if I lied, my conscience will prick me. What do you think is the best option for people like us? How many say to lie? How many say to be truthful?

Furthermore, because of the stigma associated with mental illness, not many employers are keen to take in people with a history of the illness. They have the impression that patients with mental illness are potentially dangerous or violent, or that they behave oddly and are unable to do their jobs well. Truth is, as I mentioned earlier, people with mental illness are seldom dangerous. It is just that when a violent incident happens, it gets reported in the media and a lot of people hear of it.

Sometimes, the side effects of the medications make it difficult to recovering mental patients to work such as slurring of speech, tongue rolling and trembling hands. This is especially so with the older generation of drugs. New generation have fewer side effects but are extremely expensive –which can cost up to $1K a month which the majority of mentally ill patients cannot afford if they are not working.

On the other hand, I have come across people who were afraid to seek employment because of self-stigmatization. They are embarrassed about their illness. They are afraid their employer would not understand and might even discriminate against them. The consequences of staying at home for a prolonged period of time could be dire. The mental patient might end up withdrawing from reality and become unreasonably fearful of the outside world. For the family, the extent of their financial and emotional burden is unimaginable.
posted by Rita Goh @ 10:57 AM   0 comments  
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