Fairly Mental

*Disclaimer: this is a reflective post, and after writing it I realized that it can disturb some people. So, please pray and take a deep breath first. I don't have any answer for these questions that I throw for the time being, or even later on. But I know that I should still pursue what I can do best about it.

In conjunction with the having a bit of too much, my church visited the Institute of Mental Hospital Health today. I always mentioned that last "H" wrongly as "Hospital" instead of "Health" for some reason, so bear with me if it happens later on.

Anyway, this exposure trip is part of my responsibilities this term. We wanted to let the congregation be aware on the condition of the societies they are living in day-by-day. Coincidentally, FES also visited IMH last semester on their National Conference '10. So I asked around and decided to make the trip to IMH.

Originally, we planned to have a presentation by IMH at 2 to 3 pm followed by interaction with the patient from 3 to 5 pm. However, due to some unforeseen reasons, the presentation can only start at 2.45 and finished around 4.15 pm that means we don't have enough time to interact with the patients, who will have to go back to their room by 5 pm. So in the end, we only went into the ward where the patients who is well enough to get back to society is being treated.

But the visit was, for me, quite successful. We are exposed to the sad truth in our society, where mental health is a major source of Singaporeans' illnesses. It contributes 11% to the percentage of illnesses here, just 3% shy from Cancer, who sit at 14%. That is disturbing.

People around us got their own problems coping with their environment. Be it from internal or external factor, we are all affected. We do have some degree of mental illness in our minds. We just don't realize it, and thankfully, we are not chronic enough to get accepted into the institution. Or maybe we are just being unnoticed.

The thing is, it left me in horror when they told us that the institute has a lot of "possessions" in their care. That is, the patients whose their families abandoned them. Might be from the start no one cares, or someone who got parent who care but passed away and their brothers and sisters don't want to acknowledge them as relatives. Or maybe some unknown male or unknown female, who are not identified and no one is coming for them, even when the newspapers have shown their faces. There are many of them. And they are rejected by their own families. Parents, brothers, sisters, children.

It redefines the word "unreached people" to me. They are in a sense, even more unreached. Not that the geographical factors separate them from others, but their condition and the stigma of others fallen before them has left them as the outcast of the society. They are near, just one-hour MRT ride from boonlay. Yet I can't help to cry (well, figuratively at the moment of the presentation) to know that there are people like them.

Granted, there are a lot of doctors and nurses taking care of them. But even then, listening to the stories of the presenter that they are overjoyed by a visit of volunteers was proof that there are a big hole in their hearts even still. Granted, there are a lot of volunteers who come each weekends, especially on holidays. But for them who are left in solitude and friendless, a gentle act of love is something that is very meaningful.

This leads me to think to something even more disturbing. These people are those who are being treated in the institution. They are considered "lucky" enough that they have families who want them to get treated, regardless they are being accepted by the whole family or not. At least, they still have the doctors and nurses, specialists who care for them and working for their well-being. But what about the one who are not identified and treated?

I think it is very valid if I say that in this Asian context, to have someone admitted into hospital for mental illnesses is a big disgrace into the name of our families. Some parents does not even want to accept that their children are (pardon me) autistic, and made them go through the same system with other students, even though it will be such a torture to the child. Prestige and pride is higher than anything. Then there are people who are distressed, depressed or guilt-ridden. Some of them does not even have friends to share it into. Or even worse, their social networks told them that it was nothing big, and they expect them to get over it. The person can't get a proper care and compassions from others and eventually breaks down as their burden increases.

They might be beside us. People we know. People we usually have lunch or tea-time together. People who we usually read their blog about. People who usually go to Sunday Service or Fellowship together. People who at one time has been someone who brought back hope to us when we are down. People who we thinks are strong, but actually is acting strong because of the demand of the people around them. People who we thought are our so-called guru, but is actually bearing unjust expectation from us. Tormented. Dejected. Saddened. But because of one thing and another they have to carry on. And no one even sees.

They are even more unreached. They are even more forgotten.

It made me remember this song by Casting Crowns:

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small

Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they'll soon discover
That I don't belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation's open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone who's been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who's traded
In the altar for a stage

The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be

Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay

Facebook notes reader can find the video here

When I first hear this song, I was directly struck by it. It was such a sad and scary song. Ironically, there are a lot of this people around us. Where are we, as brothers and sisters, to them who really needs us?

Let there be light.



There was a time when I lost my desire to write and to share. There was a time when I didn't see the point of doing a blog to express my thought. I am who I am though, inconsistent as I am in doing this blog, but I do want to share and I do long to write. Today I'm giving it another go. Fingers crossed. But I still wish that "Let there be light" is the message that I convey.
  • January 1st 2012, Kristo