We will all encounter issues at some point in our lives. It may be the loss of a loved one, financial difficulties, or mental health issues. What I admire about people is the pieces of freedom we are still able to find during times of adversity, and use that space for self-expression and relaxation.
When you are tied up, you can either try fighting it, or relaxing, taking a breath and finding your pace again. What do you see in this picture? What do you see in the robes and the spaces between them?
On this year’s World Mental Health Day, on 10th Oct 2018, we present you to you the mental health stories seen through the lens of a mental health professional.
Name: Sally Souraya
Country of Origin: Lebanon
Time in Beijing: 2015-2016
Occupation: Mental Health Professional
I worked in two different hospitals in my capacity as an occupational therapist in a psychiatric hospital and a mental health advisor for cancer patients at a general hospital.
In the general hospital, cancer patients were surrounded by family and friends, showered with care and support, with warmth and positivity for them to battle their disease. There are people everywhere for them. Despite the pain and tragedy of their illness, their lives are filled with love and encouragement.
Unlike this, in the psychiatric hospital, patients with mental health problems were often deserted by their closest and dearest. Many of them abandoned to the mercy of the doctors and families, who reign over patients – people with mental health problems often had no say in the decision of how long to stay in the hospital. The cold and dark entwined their lives; their lives were not truly theirs anymore.
Both kinds of patients were dealing with a challenge to their wellbeing, and yet cancer patients were received with care and concern, whilst patients with bipolar disorder were shut away due to embarrassment, usually of their own families who faced social stigma. What will people think and say about the person with bipolar? This was often a concern for families and affected their way of dealing with the person with bipolar. It also influenced the way this person was going to live their lives. As a result, some families tried to hide the person or keep them longer at the hospital.
Having sadly witnessed this stigma and discrimination, I always wondered how this was commonly accepted. There are stories after stories about people being deprived of their autonomy and seen as having no capacity to make decisions about their own lives. Why was there a difference in the way people are treated, especially by their own families? People with mental health problems and cancer patients are both in pain, but the help they get is so different! Why the prejudice?
It saddens me that some family members are simply not aware of how they can show support. People with mental health problems are not victims – they can be empowered to overcome their own challenges. I learnt so much from working with them: the grit and stamina they have to get through the adversities, the willingness to try their best with support, and the perseverance to get over the challenge. That is inspiration.
Our role as therapists and as families is to LISTEN without judgment. Listen with open minds and sensitive senses. We need to see people with mental health problems for who they are, to understand what they are going through, and to trust that they know best about their situations. We need to be giving them their right to be actively involved in the decision-making related to their care and life.
The image they portray in public may not be their best feet forward because of their struggles, and yet this one image seems to seal their fates. We judge them for that one thing, when the irony is that we are the ones who do not understand what they are going through. Who are we to judge?
They deserve the same kind of care and treatment, and the right to decide for themselves how they will deal with their mental health challenges.
We simply provide support and care. It is our responsibility to provide information and options and it is their right to choose and decide.
Sometimes, just by being there, we are enough for them to live through another day.
Another heart-touching story that accompanies a photograph as part of the “One Model One Story”. By sharing these brave experiences, we hope to encourage those struggling with mental health issues to become more open about their feelings and improve the community’s understanding of mental illnesses.
The fundraiser is going towards the photo-album, another major part of the Moodlab Project. This book will feature all the photos and stories of the models; it will also feature some facts and stats regarding bipolar disorder for educational purposes.
Nothing is too little- we appreciate all donations, big or small. You can contribute by scanning the QR codes below.
Figure 1 Chinese QR
Figure 2 English QR
Our partner from Bearapy (Founder: Enoch Li) is the supporting organization behind the “One Model One Story” series. She conducted interviews with the models and created a heart-touching narrative from their words and experiences. You can follow Bearapy by scanning the QR code below.