- Mental Illness 精神病
- Psychosis & Schizophrenia 精神分裂症和其他精神病性障碍
- Depression 抑郁症
- Bipolar disorder 躁郁症
- Anxiety 焦虑症
- Stigma & Advocacy 歧视与拥护精神病患
- IMH 80th Anniversary 心理卫生学院80周年纪念刊
- National Mental Health Blueprint Singapore 新加坡心理卫生蓝图
- Personality Disorders 人格障碍
- Singapore Statistics on Mental Health 新加坡心理卫生数据
- Suicides in Singapore 新加坡的自杀概况
- Mental Health & Psychology Training 心理健康与心理学课程
- Stress and Society 个人压力与社会环境
- Recovery 康复
- Mental Health Laws 心理卫生法律
- Employment Opportunities for PMI 患者就业机会
- Caregiving 关怀精神病患
- Where to Get Help 寻求协助
Saturday, November 13, 2010
From Lifewise (National Healthcare Group) Nov-Dec 2010
Undergraduate and volunteer Lee Qiu Luan wants you to be touched by the stories her “special friends” from the Institute of Mental Health have to share.
Lee Qiu Luan remembers a secondary schoolmate who seemed a little different from the others. “She stood all alone in between class periods, smiling and talking to herself,“ recalls the 26-year old. “It left me wondering why she was behaving that way.”
But it wasn’t about six years later when her curiosity about “different” people was rekindled and further piqued when she happened to read about a suicide from the newspapers.
It was then that Qiu Luan, who was in first year in Singapore Polytechnic, decided to volunteer at the Institute of Mental health (IMH) to better understand patients suffering from the illness.
She started out helping with the gardening in IMH’s grounds, but later joined the Achievers, a year later, in 2007, after she found out about the group during IMH’s volunteer orientation programme.
“I wanted to work more closely with the patients – or special friends, as we prefer to call them – and the Achievers do just that,” explains Qiu Luan. “the people in the Achievers group bring patients on outings, and teach them, through games and activities, how to reintegrate themselves into society.”
Every alternate Saturday for about three hours, the Achievers meet a group of special friends, to play games with them or to simply spend the time talking. It has been from these interactions that Qiu Luan has developed a better understanding of their situations and problems.
“What I had known about psychiatric illnesses, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, had been limited to what the media portray or what people say,” she says, “But after knowing a few special friends, I have come to realize that not all of them can be classified into any one category.”
An example would be a middle-aged woman whose face would always light up when talking about her relatives. “It was hard to understand why she was in IMH in the first place; she spoke clearly and was up to date with what was going on in the outside world,” says Qiu Luan. “If not for the patient garments and medical tag. I wouldn’t even have known she was a patient.”
She does not know why the moan was in IMH as patients’ records are confidential, but says that sometimes family members “hand these special friends” over to IMH because they feel they cannot cope with their behavior.
“From what I understand, sometimes it’s because the family doesn’t know how – or want to deal- with a patient’s problems.”
After four years, the biggest challenge she still faces as a volunteer is the stigma that is still associated with psychiatric illnesses, says Qiu Luan, who is now pursuing a degree in Science (Chemistry) at the National University of Singapore.
Some undergrduates do not even know what IMH stands for. “You hear them saying something like ‘International Mental Hospital’,” says Qiu Luan. “But what’s more frustrating is when people use insults like ‘retarded’ or ‘mentally slow’. It shows how ignorant people can be about psychiatric patients.”
Even if someone is mentally ill, it doesn’t mean that they’re stupid or incapable of doing anything. Qiu Luan cites instances where special friends have taught her a new skill. “Two of them took the time to patiently teach me Chinese chess and mahjong. I’m not very good though, because I’m still losing to them!” she says with a laugh.
It is also this ignorance that makes it hard to get more people to be volunteers at IMH. Reasons such as “IMH is too far away” or “don’t have the time” are common.
It is also the perceived social stigma. People are hesitant to volunteer because they think psychiatric patients are dangerous. But as Qiu Luan explains, “That’s not true at all. The special friends whom we interact with are responsive and fun to be around with. We’re not the least worried about them turning aggressive.”
Another reason that keeps more people from volunteering is the assumption that it is difficult to interact with people with mental illnesses. But it is actually the reverse.
“You’d be surprised how they end up doing most of the talking when you first meet them,” says Qiu Luan. “Some don’t get to meet their friends and relatives often, so they’re always happy to have someone who listens. What’s funny is that I sometimes find it easier communicating with the special friends that I do with other people.”
Being a volunteer has benefited her own family life too. “My 16-year-old brother and I have always been close, but when he found out that I was a volunteer at IMH, he began to talk to me more, asking for advice on how to talk to his friends when they’re sad or down,” she reveals.
THE REAL LESSON
From that instance, Qiu Luan also realizes how far she herself has benefited from being a member of the Achievers. She’s made many friends – not just with the special ones, but also with other volunteers and IMH staff, and she hopes to make more in the years to come. Just as important is the life lesson she has learnt.
“To make a difference in anyone’s life takes a lot of time, patience and continual effort. But any difference, however small, is always good,” Qiu Luan says, with a smile