Source: Channel NewsAsia video screengrab.

Tan Chuan-Jin wrote about a resident with mental health concerns at MPS; Others chime in on stigma

Tan Chuan-Jin, a politician and a member of the People’s Action Party made a Facebook post where he spoke out about a “deeply worrying and troubling case” when a resident that he helped for years came to see him personally during MPS (Meet-the-People Sessions) on Monday.

Mr Tan wrote in his post where he mentions that he has seen the resident’s children grow up in the past 8 years from when they were toddlers to young Primary school students. The resident has mental health concerns and will always appear “particularly poorly” whenever he shows up to see Tan Chuan-Jin at MPS.

However, the politician has received many videos that will show the resident behaving quite normally at coffee shops in the neighbourhood during the day. Tan Chuan-Jin also expressed how the resident is not cooperative and forthcoming which made it difficult for social workers and others assisting him to help him with his issues. Despite that, he said that they are still maintaining their goodwill and links with him as well as addressing his concerns about the resident’s children and their well being.

“The effort by the agencies have been quite intense but headway can only be made if the individual is also prepared to help himself.” said Tan Chuan-Jin.

Mr Tan also added that mental health agencies are also involved and explained that even though they have had success cases, they also have complex and “seemingly intractable” cases as well. He ended the post by thanking his team, government agencies, service organisations, and individuals.

The post has encouraged locals to express themselves on the issues of mental health in the country and spreading awareness about the topic.

A Facebook user by the name of Megan Gail Morais spoke out on the matter by explaining the stigma and her theory on why the resident acted differently when he was speaking at the MPS. She started of by saying that people with mental health conditions tend to behave at different levels of functionality under differing contexts and it is not unusual.Megan elaborates further by saying, “There is a reason to suspect malingering in the case of seeking assistance, but it would be prudent not to assume or publicise this as a case of likely malingering.”

“People with mental illness endure stigma of malingering even when they are not, and endure stigma that disbelieves the direness of their conditions when they do not behave in ways the public expects mentally ill people to behave.” she added.

Megan also suspects that the resident perhaps happens to be under distress in an MPS context or that he may be under such great stress that he feels the need to exaggerate his condition in order for people to believe that he is in need of assistance.Other users decided to share their experiences on their journey having mental health concerns as well as those who have been around people with mental health issues.

Yvonne Jedidiah Tan commented on the post to share her experience and that mental health is an issue that should be addressed more frequently. She also expressed her concerns on people who get penalised for seeking professional help earlier.

“I went to IMH to treat an early stage of OCD, however I was shocked to find out that I would have difficulties applying for insurance (including the ones that can be deducted from CPF) that had nothing to do with mental condition at that time.” she said in her comment.

“While it’s important for individuals to help themselves, maybe it’s also time to check if society is also unwittingly penalising people heavily for simply trying to help themselves?”

Even though Yvonne has gotten better in her mental state, she still has agencies that will continue to question her on the single past event. She mentions that if the condition was more severe, the constant stigmatisation and insensitive, repeated questioning might have hindered her recovery and “driven her to a corner”.If anyone were to ask her for advice, she would think twice about telling them to seek professional help immediately after knowing that things might just get worse instead. Another Facebook user, Santo Thie said that many mental ill patients are not aware that they need help and that some will reject that help.

“Yes it’s challenging as we cannot expect them to be prepared to help themselves.” he commented.

He also explains that a person can behave totally differently in a different situation. Based on the statement on how the resident was acting poorly at the MPS and when he acted normally at coffee shops, Santo said that it could be due to anxiety build ups before seeing Tan Chuan-Jin versus feeling comfortable and peaceful coffee time with trusted friends. Other commenters are more concerned on the children as the behavior and mental state of the resident could affect them as well.

Kelvin Khoo commented that he agrees the emphasis should be on the children to help educate and encourage them to be independent and succeed in life. He also states they should be given the opportunity and the ability to pursue their passion and interests in life, despite their beginnings and problems that they are currently facing.

In recent news about mental health, President Halimah Yacob has encouraged the youth to not be afraid when talking about mental health. The President attended a special forum theatre performance at the Singapore Association for Mental Health’s Creative SAY centre back in February this year. The performance has showed the seriousness and struggles of those who suffer from mental health issues as well as to guide people on ways to show support and help them.

President Halimah Yacob said that society is filled with “a lot of ignorance” about mental health due to the lack of awareness on the topic and people do not talk about it often. She said that ignorance leads to fear, which develops into a stigma.