SINGAPORE - There is nothing a patient can do about his mental illness, says Dr Adrian Wang, a consultant psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre.
He says: "No one knows what causes the illnesses. It is probably genetic - where people are born with a vulnerability to develop the illnesses."
He listed some issues that they face:
Many people do not understand how it is like to be looking after a loved one with a mental illness, Dr Wang says.
"There is stigma when it comes to mental illness. Caregivers feel very alone because of the feeling that no one understands what it is like looking after someone with a mental illness," he says.
The requirement by employers for job applicants to declare their mental health status makes it hard for someone with mental illness to land a job.
But it is a personal decision whether one should do so, says a spokesman for Institute of Mental Health (IMH).
"However, IMH does advise our clients on the pros and cons of declaring their mental illness in pre-employment forms."
She also says that IMH works proactively with employers to find jobs for their clients through Job Club, which provides job placement and counselling services.
But Dr Wang says it is essential to help employers be more accepting.
"Otherwise, patients with mental illness will lie and hide about their illness."
Caring for a person with chronic mental illness, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, puts a strain on the caregivers emotionally, physically, mentally and financially, says Dr Wang.
He says: "Because the illnesses come and go, the patients may suffer relapses in their lifetime."
Those with severe symptoms end up with more problems.
"They are unable to work and may have problems looking after themselves. So there are problems of looking for a place to live and someone to look after them," he adds.
Support and understanding are what caregivers and patients need most.
"They need employers to be more accepting and the Government to provide more funding and facilities, to make the public understand that mental illness is not something they choose to have," he says.
"They need employers to be more accepting, the government to provide more funding and facilities as well as the need to make the public understand that mental illness is not something they choose to have."
Bipolar disorder / schizophrenia
What is bipolar disorder?
Someone affected may have episodes of either excessive cheerfulness, referred to as manic episodes, or sadness.
Left untreated, these episodes last from weeks to months.
A 2010 Singapore Mental Health Study conducted by the Institute of Mental Health shows that 1.2 per cent of the adult population here suffered from bipolar disorder during their lifetime. It occurs most commonly in those aged 18-34 years old.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a condition affecting the thinking process.
The affected individual often develops false beliefs pertaining to how the external world relates to him.
He may come to harbour a false belief that others are planning to harm him or are conspiring against him.
Patients suffering from schizophrenia often hear voices of people talking or commenting about them.
HELP AT HAND
For support, caregivers can attend the workshops provided by the Medical Social Work department of IMH or join support groups by the following organisations:
Singapore Family Caregivers by IMH (www.sgfamilycaregivers.com)
Caregivers Alliance Limited (www.cal.org.sg)
Singapore Association for Mental Health (www.samhealth.org.sg/caregiver-support)
This article was published on April 27 in The New Paper.Get The New Paper for more stories.