Monday, April 21, 2014

Should the mentally ill be exempted from NS?

at 18
Dear readers,

Most of you would know of this case of the 22-year-old full-time national serviceman (NSF) Pte Ganesh Pillay, who served his NS last year.

He was found dead at the foot of his condominium in Sengkang last July. It was an apparent suicide and he was also diagnosed with schizophrenia at 18 (prior to enlistment?) and was taking medication. Pte Ganesh ended his life after his superior, Captain Jessie Goh, had earlier issued him with 14 extra duties as punishment for, among other things, unsatisfactory work and improper bearing. After he returned from camp, he took his own life. [1]

Andy Ho weighed in on the matter with his article "Exempt these young men from NS" here in the Sunday Times, followed by Prof Chong Siow Ann's "Support, not exclude, mentally ill in NS" here and mental health advocate Chan Lishan's "Don't deny mental health patients the chance to live normally" here.

Andy Ho though sympathetic to the plight of these NS men with schizophrenia, was however not well-versed in mental health issues and especially of stigma. His was an agenda of permissiveness. Prof Chong and Lishan on the other hand had their own agenda of inclusiveness. The bridge between the two is actually societal attitudes and change, specifically in the SAF.

It seems really the ideal is to have the mentally ill living amongst us with no stigma and no opportunities denied outright, but that is an ideal that we need to acknowledge is not yet realised.

Chan Lishan argues that the NS setting is no less stigmatising than educational and workplace settings, and thus to deny the mentally ill the chance to do NS would be illogical. Personally, I feel that's because she has never had the experience of being called "chao keng" or "siow" or otherwise stigmatised in the cloistered and forbidding environment of NS.

I served one half of my NS as an PESE9L9 (Temp) and I was deathful afraid of that term "chao keng". I was only susceptible to schizophrenia, having shown premorbid vulnerable personality and having a family history of schizophrenia. My psychiatrist said I had pseudoneurotic schizophrenia. Note: I was not yet diagnosed with full-blown schizophrenia. I had my first psychotic break 5 years after serving NS.

I felt like a fake and a "chao keng", but honestly speaking given the state I was in, I couldn't have survived in a combat vocation. Even in a lobo clerical position, I think I survived by the skin of my teeth. I felt like a zombie most of the time, and I think many NS men do too.

The NS environment can be brutally stressful not only because of vocation demands but also because the sado-masochistic culture that some commanders in every unit have, that they are the chosen ones to make these boys into men. Anyone who has gone through NS have met these commanders. This sado-masochistic culture of the SAF is not going to change overnight.

I don't know how I wouldn't have reacted had I been slapped with 14 extra duties like Pte Ganesh.

I don't know. Well, there are those among us mentally ill who have gained prominence and thrived as professionals. But even those will tell you how lucky they are to have supportive friends and family and a conducive work culture. Not everybody does a John Nash, or should be expected to.

Not all mentally ill are vulnerable to workplace stress, but by this count Lishan doesn't speak for all of us. Her resilience bodes well for her and her future career. But I am certainly vulnerable to stress, and would take all the help that I can get, even if people stigmatise me on that account, which they should not if they're sincerely trying to help.

At the end of the day, if I had a younger brother diagnosed with schizophrenia, and given the choice of going or not going NS, I say hell, DON'T GO. Life is more important.












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Saturday, March 22, 2014

SAMH: Opening - Art Exhibition: Portions of Blessings 26 Mar 2014

Hello Kelvin, 
You are invited to the following event:
OPENING - ART EXHIBITION: PORTIONS OF BLESSINGS
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Event to be held at the following time, date and location:
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 from 18:30 to 21:00 (SGT)
Goodman Arts Centre
90 Goodman Rd

Singapore

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"Portions of Blessings" is an exhibition of artworks done by participants at SAMH Creative Hub, expressing what is "Blessing" to them.
"Love Without Walls" was a programme conducted by Creative Hub for caregivers which included art & craft, psychodrama and lyric composition. The book of the same title documents the caregivers' experiences at the expressive sessions and also their stories of caregiving.

On 26 Mar, we are proud to invite you to the opening of the art exhibition and the concurrent book launch at Goodman Arts Centre, The Gallery @Block B.

There are also illustration and writing workshops conducted on 29 & 3
0 Mar.

To RSVP or to find out more, please email ch@samhealth.org.sg or call 6344-8451.

Warmest regards,
Singapore Association for Mental Health

Friday, March 21, 2014

Announcement: Change in Modus Operandi of Greysteppenwolf Blog

Dear readers,

Having received the following reply from SPH, I will change the mode of operation of this blog as follows:

1) There will no longer be full SPH articles on this blog. Periodic updates on the Singapore mental health scene will continue and will be done using mainly SPH articles, but only with the links provided. Commentary may be provided but is optional. As such, updates will probably be given in bulk on a more or less periodic schedule on this blog. Additionally, links to the articles may be reposted on my Facebook Page, which I think is allowed by SPH.

2) Previously posted SPH articles would remain in draft mode on this blog and will not be available to readers. If commentary is to be given, a link will be provided to the original article. You can email me to request for SPH published information and I will do a search on my database and give you the link, if any, or selected information.

3) Articles which are not of SPH origin will be put back up on this blog. This ironically means that more unforgiving and critical commentaries will make up the bulk of reposted articles on this blog.

And since Sebastian Chow from SPH is unable to nail me with any evidence of business dealings or commercial activities on my blog, the profiles of Dr Ang Yong Guan and Dr Yeo Seem Huat are back up, sans the SPH articles. The profile of Dr Alex Su is an SPH article, so I'll try to do an original writeup for him.

As for the "Recovery from mental illness in Singapore" series, most of them are SPH articles, so I might try to original writeup or fresh interviews. What do you readers think?

The final reply from SPH is as follows. No apology was given for insinuating that I monetised my blog to take advantage of SPH. Of course, financially I have no recourse to a lawyer, so the point is moot.

Lastly, feel free to give me feedback on the new modus operandi of this blog.

From: Sebastian Chow KC
Date: Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 6:01 PM
Subject: Permission to reproduce articles on http://greysteppenwolf.blogspot.com/
To: Kelvin Ng <greysteppenwolf@yahoo.com>

Dear Kelvin

We thank you for your interest in hosting our content on your blog.

The content is the copyright of SPH and while we note that permission was granted to you in 2012 to host our articles on your blog, we would like to inform you that following a change in our business strategy and policy, we do not allow reproduction of our articles unless express written permission has been granted by us for every article. We raise this for your attention as we noted your extensive reproduction of our articles on your blog. Do note, however, that we have no objections to the use of links directing your readers to our articles via our websites.

If you have queries on the extent of reproduction permitted for copyrighted material, we recommend that you consult with an intellectual property lawyer who can advise you accordingly.

Thank you.

Regards,
Sebastian Chow