Forum: Society can help stop tragedies arising from mental illness

It is heartening to hear anecdotes of steadfast caregivers going through thick and thin with their family members afflicted with mental illness (Love in the face of mental illness, Feb 10).

Given the unrelenting and progressive nature of mental disorders, it is usually the family that can pull a person back from the dark abyss.

Thus, it is heart-rending when I hear real-life cases of families taking a passive stance on the cries for help from a family member.

In some cases, denial and the fear of social stigma that comes with mental illness play a big part.

In others, family members simply lack the capacity to help while making ends meet.

For the former, it is especially devastating when it involves children or teenagers.

Parents delay seeking help for fear that once their child is diagnosed with mental illness, his future would be blemished.

Inadvertently, this delay causes more harm and renders a largely treatable illness irreversible.

The suffering that such children go through is inhumane and may even result in suicide, but it is preventable.

It takes a whole-of-society effort to prevent such tragedies. We are starting to see nationwide campaigns aimed at removing the stigma associated with mental illness.

Everyone can play a part by showing concern to a friend, a relative, a colleague, or even a stranger.

By talking openly and without judgment to a person or family member affected by mental illness, we improve the chances of the affected person receiving treatment and eventually recovering.

With such a societal effort, the day will come when depression can be discussed in the same breath as diabetes.

Lau Wai Leong

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