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TOC snubs demand of apology by son of elderly woman with dementia who was allegedly "bullied" by police officers

Jul 16, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

The son of the 85-year-old woman with dementia that was allegedly "bullied" by police officers for not wearing a mask has demanded an apology from The Online Citizen (TOC) for manipulating the circumstances of the incident.

The woman was seen in a video uploaded on May 18 that showed a group of police officers allegedly "taunting" her.

The video, originally posted as an Instagram story by @nichology, also accused the officers of "cluster[ing" the elderly woman and abusing their authority.

The claims were later reproduced by The Online Citizen Asia (TOC) and Singapore Uncensored with TOC sending a representative down to elderly woman's home to interview her further.

TOC subsequently published the interview video on Facebook on May 25 and wrote that "she was not given food by the police officers" and "she was chased away from her spot".

It was later revealed by the Singapore Police Force that TOC's facts of the events were false and that the elderly woman in question had dementia.

Apology demanded by woman's son snubbed by TOC

According to Lianhe Zaobao, the woman's son - who was not named - sent a letter of demand to TOC on July 7 through his lawyer Anand Nalachandran from Forte Law LLC.

The deadline for the apology was on July 12 but TOC has refused to accede to the demand.

TOC's lawyer Lim Tean from Carson Law Chambers responded to the letter and insisted that the interview by TOC with the old woman was "appropriate and fair" therefore TOC will not apologise.

Lawyer Anand confirmed with Lianhe Zaobao that a reply letter from TOC has been received and that his law firm is currently assessing the next steps.

TOC believes it's not at fault

According to the reply letter by TOC's lawyer Lim Tean, he pointed out that TOC did not know that the elderly woman had dementia when they conducted the follow-up interview. He also claimed that a senior palliative care staff was present and was responsible for allowing TOC to speak to the woman.

Lim Tean pointed out that the police statement had described the elderly woman as having dementia so "any unfortunate public reaction is the police's actions". He also challenged the woman's son to go to the police if he thinks it has caused harm.

"Malicious attack on police by TOC" - Minister Shanmugam

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam accused TOC for attacking the police.

"So TOC, you go and interview her, this old lady, try and get her to say things," Shanmugam said.

"I would say this is despicable, and how low people will stoop. Unethical, cynical. This whole exercise by TOC is quite malicious to attack the police."

Shanmugam's comments came as the police took the unusual step of releasing body-worn camera footage of the incident to verify their account of alleged bullying of an elderly woman.

The police clarified that TOC's allegations were untrue, adding that officers responded to an incident on May 17 involving an 85-year-old woman who appeared to be lost.

The officers helped the woman, who did not have a mask on, to find her way home, said the police.

Shanmugam said that the elderly woman's daughter has confirmed that her mother has dementia.

"(The elderly woman's daughter) told the police she's upset that the old lady has been taken advantage of by TOC to spin a story, because TOC had put a video of the lady saying, various things," Shanmugam continued.

"People who have dealt with people who have dementia will know that you can sometimes get them to say many things they will not remember what they had half an hour earlier."

Backlash against TOC by netizens

After the police statement, backlash against TOC was quick to follow with over 100 comments by netizens condemning TOC's editorial integrity.

TOC is Malaysian-run

TOC is currently dominated by Malaysian writers as revealed by Fathership

The Malaysian writers who are not based in Singapore has in the past called for Singaporean civil servants to follow the example of their Hong Kong counterparts in protesting.

One of its writers also made allegations about Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's character.

In a speech on Sep. 25 at the RSIS Conference on Foreign Interference Tactics and Counter Measures, Shanmugam said that foreign writers working for TOC have written "inflammatory articles".

"TOC uses foreigners, employs them, including Malaysians, to write almost exclusively negative articles on Singaporean social and political matters, including inflammatory articles that seek to fracture social cohesion.

They support the call for Singaporean civil servants to follow the example of Hong Kong civil servants in protesting, making allegations about the Prime Minister which has led to a civil suit by the Prime Minister, because the PM says they are false attacks against his character and fitness to hold office."

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.