Book shines light on conquering mental illness

It was a Friday afternoon in 2009 when Ms Aneez Fathima received a phone call from her son's school - to not only take him home but also to take him out of the school.

A couple of days earlier, her seven-year-old son Faheem, who was autistic, had poked one of his Bukit View Primary School classmates with a pair of scissors.

When she and Faheem returned home, her husband Mohamad Farook said he would take their only child out for "lunch and Friday prayers".

The next time Ms Aneez, then 32, saw them was at the foot of a residential block nearby - father and son had fallen 24 storeys to their death.

She was devastated.

In 2015, the Indian permanent resident became a volunteer at Club Heal, a charity that offers rehabilitation and counselling services to those suffering from mental illness.

She called it a "calling from God", and is today a full-time para-counsellor with Club Heal.

Her story is one of 17 published in a book on mental illness that was launched yesterday at the club's fifth anniversary dinner at Keat Hong Community Club.

Titled A Place In The Sun, the book is written by the club's resident writer Yohanna Abdullah, 50, who shared her own 20-year journey with bipolar disorder.

There is a Malay version of the book, Di Bawah Sinaran Mentari.

A book on mental health tips, You Can Be Your Best, by retired mental health nurse Heryani Jamaludin, was also launched yesterday.

In a speech at the dinner, President Halimah Yacob, Club Heal's chief patron, called for more understanding to break down the stigma and barriers against mental illness.

"A good starting point for us to be helpful is to find out more about mental illness so that we will not prejudge the sufferers or subject them to ridicule and contempt," she said.

Club Heal, which runs three centres, has helped almost 2,000 people since 2012.

In 2016, it expanded its services to dementia patients and their caregivers, a move Madam Halimah called timely, given Singapore's rapidly ageing population.

Club Heal president Radiah Halim said yesterday the charity is now looking at expanding services to addiction issues.