A writer sent in a heartfelt piece to Today, about mental illness. He chides those who stigmatise individuals with mental illness and, referencing to the shootings in America, talks about how it was too easy to point an accusing finger at Asperger’s.
By circumstance, this last opinion found its way as my last piece of the year. I want to talk about stigmatisation.
I remember vividly when I was 15 years old. One afternoon, while taking my handicapped dad to the doctor, we wheeled past upon a bunch of 8 year olds – as we moved closer, they unabashedly huddled together going “yeeeee”, cringing their faces in disgust. Their parents were near and a mother turned instinctively and said “eh, you all don’t be rude ah!”, but she said that with a smirk… as if it was some funny, cute thing that their children did.
Do you know someone who is perhaps guilty of this? Have you heard conversations, or participated in one where blames were quick to be shoved? Schizophrenia, the handicapped, Aspergers, how about people who talk to themselves? A foreign labourer, someone who smells? A destitute person. Someone who was an ex-convict? A third party in two people’s relationships? It is hard to remove mental stereotypes of what real or imaginary crime these individuals have done, or will do.
This is not something I want to see campaigns or government led resolutions – because if it is, it will prove my greatest fear: that we actually do need education about not stigmatising society. I don’t have statistics, because none is available. But I’ve lived as a Singaporean long enough to know that this problem is well and alive.
As you sip your Moëts tonight, enjoying the luxuries of city living. May I inspire you to have a think about the problems that still thrive in Singapore society. The very peeves that peeve us, perhaps could only be eradicated through a soulful reflection of our own actions. No other way. No policy, law or campaign can do this.
I’ll leave you here with a quote from the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, a story about a misunderstood, ugly, beast of a man. He spoke the sad words when he saw the love of his life, caressing a goat with love and care:
“My misfortune is that I still resemble a man too much. I should like to be wholly a beast like that goat.” – Quasimodo