Reflect on attitudes towards those with mental health issues

PHOTO: Reflect on attitudes towards those with mental health issues

While I respect Mr Lee Chiu San's views, I suggest that one should avoid making hasty generalisations based on only personal experience ("Hard to integrate mentally ill soldiers into active SAF units"; Tuesday).

The essence of stigma is a negative and prejudicial attitude towards someone with a mental illness.

Discrimination occurs when people with mental illnesses are treated unfairly or denied their rights because of their conditions.

In ancient Greece, stigma was used to describe the mark branded onto someone to indicate his social undesirability.

People with mental health issues were seen as having less social value then.

These attitudes continue today and are expressed in different ways in different cultures. They create a vicious circle of alienation and discrimination, and can become the main impediment to recovery, causing social isolation, unemployment, homelessness and institutionalisation.

With appropriate treatment and support from family and friends, people with mental health issues can live quality lives just like anyone.

Despite their conditions, famous people such as mathematician John Nash, authors Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway, and the late American president Abraham Lincoln made important contributions to society.

The recognition of the importance of mental health and the consequences of stigma and discrimination should help free us from an "us and them" attitude.

It is time to reflect on our attitudes towards people with mental health issues and join hands in making Singapore a gracious country.

Letter from Porsche Poh (Ms)

Executive Director

Silver Ribbon (Singapore)

FORUM NOTE: Silver Ribbon is a non-profit organisation that fights the stigma of mental illness and encourages early treatment.

This article was published on April 24 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.