Monday, October 10, 2005

World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day. According to WHO, "450 million people worldwide are affected by mental, neurological or behavioural problems at any time." Some people's problems are more serious than others. Some fulfill DSM criteria, others might not. Nonetheless, I think folks are generally getting a raw deal, at least in the local context. Apart from the inherent difficulties associated with any illness, mental illnesses come with extra baggage: the totally unnecessary stigma attached to it. Much of it comes from the mass media (especially Channel 8 Chinese shows!) that often uses some sensational scapegoat to juice up proceedings. Another is the question seen in some job applications: "Have you ever had the occasion to see a psychiatrist?" I wonder how many people have thought twice before seeking help because of that question. In my opinion, it's really irrelevant, and truly racist discriminatory. (I've heard that this line of questioning is illegal in the US.) Perhaps there's hope yet with more awareness and less hype. I volunteer with the SG Association for Mental Health, and they have two talks this Wednesday afternoon and night. There's a talk about recovering from mental illnesses from 2-5pm, and the session at night focuses on myths about schizophrenia and caregivers from 7-9pm at the IRAS Auditorium. Call 62831576 for more info. I guess generally, we still fall far behind more 'developed' countries in terms of welfare and social support. Still, that's not really surprising since it was only recently that we realised that building lifts at MRT stations is actually a good thing! Just to see what how other countries are doing, I was looking at the events organised in Australia, and just hopping to the Western Australia section (WA's population is half of Singapore's), there are more than 60 events scheduled this week. Also, mental health isn't just about mental disorders. For example, Gilbert posted a sad poem about pre-teen suicides a few days ago. WHO estimates that 2,400 people take their lives around the world per day. It's quite a shocking statistic. So please, take care of yourselves, and your mental health too...

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