Mental illness is a silent killer that drains patients of their lives and capacity. Stress and mental illness affects the lives of many regardless of their age and profession. Thus, to cater for these patients, in 1909 a hospital known as Federal Lunatic Asylum was built. Now it is popularly known as Hospital Bahagia. The hospital houses over 2000 patients. It provides pristine medical services to patients in need of psychiatric care.
Patients who have recovered and just need medical care would normally be placed in a day-care centre or in caregiver homes by their respective families. The first time I set foot in the premises of the Perak Society for The Promotion of Mental Health (PSPMH) in 2007, an offspring of one of the mental patients said that they would prefer their family members with mental problems stay at the day-care centre permanently. Since then, I knew the mental patients were officially neglected by many, including their families. That was when I decided to focus my time and energy on the day-care centre, and specifically on the fragile relationship between patients, their families, officials and staff.
Based on my interaction with these patients, I felt that they had a sense of something lacking in their lives as they had not been able to reunite with their respective families. Many patients hoped to be reunited with their respective families someday.
The sad part in our society is, for decades mental patients have been a marginalized group due to society’s ignorance and prejudice. What surprised me most was that in these advanced modern times, mental patients are faced with varying degrees of isolation, marginalization and discrimination.
For all those recovered mental patients who had been waiting to be reunited with their respective families, why are their families shunning them? How many more obstacles and difficulties will be in their path in rebuilding a relationship with their families?
This year, the World Mental Day’s theme is very significant because its focus is on the theme ‘Living With Schizophrenia’. This theme is to highlight changes in current thinking about patients with mental illness and their need to be united with their respective families. It is hoped that in creating more awareness about the problem, that all these patients who have recovered and just need low dose maintenance medication, would be taken back by their respective families.
Perak Society for The Promotion of Mental Health