Malay PAP and WP MPs silent on PA saga with some refusing to comment

Jun 16, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Political leaders in positions of power have the privilege and the platform to chime in on matters concerning the community with the hope of reining in the outrage before it escalates into something worse.

Unfortunately, all the current Malay MPs from both the People’s Action Party and Workers’ Party either did not wish to comment on the PA saga or did not respond, according to TODAY.

Various Malay community leaders and former MPs gave their views on the matter when approached

Mr Zainal Sapari, former MP for Pasir Ris–Punggol Group Representation Constituency (GRC), said that he would not frame the recent incident as a case of racism.

“I believe PA is true in its cause of promoting racial harmony and social cohesion,” the former PA grassroots adviser said.

“Despite their best efforts, such incidents do happen and will happen again in future, but I would not frame it as racism.”

He also hopes that this incident “does not dampen the spirit of many volunteers who want to serve the community, but may make some bad judgement calls unintentionally”.

“We should just apologise, learn from it and move on,” he added.

Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed, former Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said that the reactions to the incident should be one of understanding rather than taking on an accusatory tone.

“We need to continue to learn from each other — how do we appreciate each other’s cultures and differences and bring about better understanding and harmony — rather than to start pointing fingers,” the former Aljunied GRC MP said.

Mr Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib, an interfaith activist and founding board member of the Centre for Interfaith Understanding, said that racism cannot just be confined to an act of an individual or a particular incident.

He said in a Facebook post on Tuesday — which he confirmed with TODAY was a response to the PA incident — that racism is a “structure, and a system of thinking and doing, that can manifest in an individual, group or social organisation through a style of thinking, speech and communication, law and policy, and physical action”.

“One has to go to the root source and identify what makes the individual think, say and act in a particular way,” he said in the post.

“Doing so would bring us to a point where we say it is not his, her, their or my problem, but it is our problem; that there is something wrong in the way we organise society.”

When asked to elaborate on his post, Mr Imran told TODAY that given the sensitivity of the issues concerning racism, we “must learn not to rush into saying that something is racist or not”.

He said that racism is experienced at the “everyday level” and one should be careful not to dismiss and invalidate the experiences of racism, especially among minorities.

“Instead, we must learn to ask ourselves what racism looks like, especially to those who are at the receiving end... Racism feels real, even if we don’t believe so.”

Mr Hazni Aris Hazam Aris, vice-chairman of AMP Singapore, a non-profit group serving the Muslim community, said that there needs to be a “paradigm shift” in how inter-racial relations are approached and understood.

“The types of conversations on race must progress beyond festivals and clothes, and move into understanding values and worldviews that shape how members of a race thinks or behaves.”

Time for a mental health emergency hotline?

Jul 21, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Finding suitable treatment requires time and effort from an individual and it can be an overwhelming experience.

Anthea Ong, a former Nominated Member of Parliament who advocated for the prioritisation of mental health in the budget 2020 debate suggested that improving the quantity and quality of information about mental health resources may encourage a young person to take the first step to seek help.

She added that while the National Council of Social Service provides a list of available mental health resources online, there should be a “community navigator” that goes beyond “just information”.

“There's no guidance on where to go, the cost fees - at least list down some of the possible journeys or experiences and then map that.

“It’s not a site that helps you to navigate the services available,” she explained.

Lack of clear information an overwhelming experience for mental health sufferers

For those like Aisha*, who engages in self-harm and suspects she has depression, the plethora of options that a Google search presents her has posed a hindrance.

“I remember Googling ‘Singapore counselling session’ and ‘affordable counselling’... but there isn’t a site that narrows down your options for you or tells you what kind of treatment is appropriate,” the 23-year-old patient service associate at a local hospital said. She has yet to see a professional.

“I do want to spend some time looking at the services ... but that’s just something I’m not ready for at this point of time - not when your mind is already in a mess.”

As much as there are many avenues of care out there, there may not be enough education on selecting an appropriate one, said Dr Tracie Lazaroo, a clinical psychologist from Inner Light Psychological Services and LP Clinic.

“Finding the appropriate mental health service can seem like an overwhelming experience.”

Psychiatrist or psychologist?

Kevin* for example, did not know the difference between a psychiatrist, a medical doctor who can diagnose mental disorders and prescribe medication, and a psychologist - someone who specialises in modes of therapy.

While he was hoping to speak to a therapist about his problems, he unknowingly set an appointment with a psychiatrist at a private hospital instead, who prescribed him medication like Lexapro and Xanax.

“I didn't know where to start and where to search … (the private hospital) came out with the first few searches of Google,” he said.

“I was quite taken aback because it was more of a clinical setting (with the psychiatrist) and it was not very nice. I didn’t feel very comfortable.”

Mr Jackie Tay, the executive director of PSALT Care, a registered charity and mental health recovery centre, said that the awareness of the availability of health and resources has not increased significantly over the last five years, neither has the “ease of search”.

“For example, we know that when there’s a fire, we call 995. When you need the police, you call 999. But when you've got a mental health problem, who do you call?”

Mental health hotline exist but not obvious enough

Since September 2020, there is a National Care Hotline (1800-202-6868) operating from 8am to 12am daily. The hotline is manned by more than 300 psychologists, counsellors, social workers, psychiatrists and public officers.

According to MOH, there are consolidated sites that list mental health resources and “function as navigators”, such as the My Mental Health microsite that was launched this year by Temasek Foundation, in collaboration with the AIC.

“It is a resource hub that provides online mental health resources such as mental health-related articles, online forums and information on support groups to support one’s mental health during the COVID-19 period,” it added.

Another website with various resources on mental health was also launched to help users assess their wellbeing and match them with forms of assistance if needed.

The website, called mindline.sg, consolidates access to many resources and tools to help people "access and navigate care, with an emphasis on stress and coping”.

While there are an abundance of mental health resources, it may not necessarily be a good thing. Mental health sufferers might feel there is an information overload.

The issue isn't about the number of resources available but the ease of assessibility to such a resource.

Perhaps a simple 3-digit emergency hotline for mental health would provide much better outcome for those planning to seek help.

*Name has been changed to protect identity.