Forum: Stop penalising those who seek help for mental health conditions – The Straits Times

I hold medical registrations with both the Singapore Medical Council and General Medical Council (GMC) in Britain, and the health declarations required by the two bodies are different.

The GMC considers mental illness on a par with any other illness, and requires doctors to declare only health conditions that impair their fitness to practise.

Locally, doctors are asked separately about physical and mental illnesses, with emphasis on whether the doctor has consulted a psychiatrist rather than on whether he is impaired, and the burden of proof of fitness is then placed on the doctor.

Separate questions about mental health and psychiatric consultation are also asked in job and university applications here.

Many parents of struggling youth hesitate to take them to a professional for fear they will be disadvantaged in the future.

The person who seeks help is penalised, while those who suffer in silence can keep their jobs even though they might be impaired.

Yet I would rather consult a doctor who has a treated mental health condition than one who has an undiagnosed one. I would also like to see youth struggling with mental health seek help early.

I commend those who have spoken up publicly in the fight against mental health stigma. We also need a systemic approach: employers, universities, insurance companies and professional licensing bodies should stop penalising those who have sought help for mental illness.

If declaring that wearing spectacles means a person may not get a driving licence, there might be a lot of half-blind drivers on the road. Wouldn’t we all rather see clearly?

P. Buvanaswari (Dr)

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