One thing that saddened me most was the lack of family support. It breaks my heart to see some patients being abandoned and institutionalised just because of the stigma that people with mental illness will never fit into the society or that they are just too difficult to deal with.
If you just understand what they go through on a daily basis and if you imagine that it were you going through all those, how would you feel if you were left fighting the illness alone.
Many would ask, "What is schizophrenia?" "If my relative or friend is diagnosed with schizophrenia, will they ever get well?" "Does this mean they are crazy?" "Will they harm me?"
The truth is, schizophrenia is a branch of psychiatric illness or mental illness that is stigmatised in today's society. There are many types of schizophrenia which I will not go into, but in general, these patients would go through a phase whereby they may hear voices that others would never pick up or see things that other people would never see. Many would describe this as seeing or hearing a ghost and this leads to fear that will conquer this person's mind. They will carry on thinking about the 'why' and 'what if'.
"Why does it have to be me?"
Why am I hearing or seeing things that others can't?"
"Why are these things bothering me? Why not the guy over there?"
"What if I am really crazy?"
"What if people think that I am crazy if I told them I can see ghost?"
"What if these things harm me?"
These thoughts would eventually progress to another range of 'what if'.
"What if I take a knife and start stabbing this image? Will it go away?"
"What if I fling this bat at it?"
"What if it starts harming my family?"
"What if I don't do anything and this thing starts creating trouble?"
The next stage is when they start executing their thoughts. That is the stage where many people fear and many people would see. These patients would be seen talking (or smiling or laughing) to themselves, aggressive, annoying and sometimes criminals. This is the stage where we all see because this is when someone is physically harmed be it the patient themselves or someone else. These people may seem to have a disruptive behaviour but how many people actually try to understand the root of the problem?
Have anyone ever wondered what could have caused a perfectly healthy person like them to behave like this? Have you ever tried to put yourself in their shoes and know what the stressors are? No doubt some of these people acquired the illness by default as it is strongly linked to familial history of mental illness, but there are some people who succumb to mental illness because of the demands of the twenty-first century.
All the expectations to fulfil, achievements to acquire and all the trophies that one need to prove their worth in the society today. What have we done to the community?
After writing about all the negativities of this illness and made some of you reading this post think about what you are going to do the next time you come across a mentally ill person by the roadside or disturbing others. It is not civilisation to start tying somebody up just because they are mentally ill. Restrainers are over popularised in movies nowadays and many people actually do ask me if the psychiatric patients where I work gets tied up and thrown in a room built from padded walls. The answer is NO. Tying somebody up is not the first thing that should come to your mind when dealing with somebody who is mentally ill for this will just make things worse. Instead, use the beauty of LOVE.
For instance, I have seen a very caring family who would spend every weekend at the institute to visit somebody who might sometimes forget who they are. Nevertheless, they have never failed to turn up every weekend and talk to the patient. Some days I would hear the patient screaming at them for no reason and some days I would see the family as loving as ever. When asked what motivated them to visit every week, their reply was simple. "For that one chance that he might remember us and we can spend the day as a family." This not only made me think about life as a whole but also about how I treat the people around me. More often than not, I would succumb to stress at work or with relationship that I hurt the people that are dearest to me or say things that were never meant to be uttered at the spur of the moment. Alas, these things that I have taken for granted is something that somebody would sacrifice all they have for.
This family made me appreciate the people around me and to have stronger faith in humanity. Love is uttered so easily nowadays but true love is so scarce. Love comes in many forms and the one that I appreciate more than the rest is familial love. There are many things that I would give up now to see that smile on my family's face.
Most mentally ill patients who are institutionalised are elderly people who have no place to go and nobody to care for them. It makes my heart flip every time I look at them and this gave me the patience to carry on helping them. Some of them may behave like a child although physically they may be twice or three times my age but one thing is for sure. It is not difficult to put a smile on that face but all I need to do is have a little faith and show a little patience.
Love is all around. It is about how you harvest it and who you shower it to.