Seek psychiatric, not psychic, help for mental illness

PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

I was taken aback when I read that in modern-day Singapore, some people still believe in the occult ("Woman in death fall was 'in disturbed state of mind'"; Aug 25).

Had these people sought help, such as consulting a qualified psychiatrist, through the proper channels, the disaster culminating in the loss of one precious life could have been averted.

The fact that the victim was hearing voices should have sounded the alarm that she was afflicted with a serious mental illness.

Early detection and treatment are key to preventing the patient from deteriorating to a point where it would be hard, or even impossible, to help.

Yet, the person closest to her chose not to believe in the tested and proven medical understanding of what was going on inside the victim's head.

Mental illnesses can be treated, with satisfactory results, with proper medication prescribed by qualified psychiatrists.

Early detection and treatment are key to preventing the patient from deteriorating to such a point where it would be hard, or even impossible, to help.

Even though people are now more aware of the proper channels for treatment, a small group of people still fall through the cracks.

These people are probably less educated and are, thus, less informed of what mental illnesses are and what causes them.

People might be hesitant to call the various helplines for many reasons.

Perhaps the stigma associated with mental illness is so great that people would rather believe it is caused by mysterious forces beyond our control.

In Singapore, it is not difficult to seek medical advice on issues of mental illness.

The problem of how to inform more people can be resolved by holding more talks or dialogues on the various types of mental illnesses and on how to look out for the signs or symptoms that accompany them.

These could be conducted in languages other than English and could be held in community centres.

Lee Kay Yan (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'Seek psychiatric, not psychic, help for mental illness'. Print Edition | Subscribe