More must speak up to dispel mental illness stigma

Professor Chong Siow Ann gave a very illuminating take on the issue of mental health in the workplace (People with mental illness deserve a shot at work; Oct 7).

The responsibilities of employers now include taking care of the mental health of their employees, and giving appropriate support to those with mental illness and helping them to be productive workers.

Given the high prevalence of mental illnesses - one in four people will be affected by a mental disorder in their lifetime - we need to act now to combat the stigma against mental illnesses, particularly in the workplace.

It is in the workplace that mental illness sufferers can best hope to reintegrate into society.

There has never been a greater need for people to speak up or write to throw light on such a sensitive and little-known subject. Ignorance is the cause of the deep stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

A few such brave individuals have stepped up and have even gone as far as to write autobiographical accounts of their struggle with mental illnesses in a bid to reach out to society and destigmatise the illness.

Our young people should be acquainted with the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses. This can be taught to them in school. Perhaps selected books or autobiographiescould be used as part of the curriculum.

Young people would, hence, be more disposed to seek help when they are faced with mental illnesses themselves.

This battle against the stigmatisation of mental illnesses, especially in the workplace, is most likely to be a long drawn out one. The desired change of mentality will not be evident immediately.

But we should nonetheless persevere to eventually drive away the myths and misconceptions surrounding mental illnesses.

Lee Kay Yan (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2017, with the headline 'More must speak up to dispel mental illness stigma'. Print Edition | Subscribe