This is an issue that has been bugging me since visiting the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) last year with few of my friends. If I state ‘NIMH’, not many would get what I am trying to talk about. But if I say Angoda many would understand better. My visit to the NIMH with my friends was with the purpose to learn about various types of diseases and treatment methods. But after reaching the place, what I learnt was completely different. I learnt that the problem was not with those in there… caged; but with us for doing this to a fellow human being. Without us even realizing it we have stigmatized these people and have isolated them from the society. They are all cut off from the outer world which they are rightfully part of.
As Sri Lankans we are proud of our high literacy rates and the free education that is provided. 90% of literacy rate and still this is the state of a mentally challenged person? Half the countries across the world have changed their methods. They have changed their laws and constitution accordingly and here we stand still doing nothing! No wonder we have been only a developing country for the past sixty years and nothing more!
Stop the stigmatization! Stop stereotyping! Mental disorders are similar to that of the physical disorders. The clients, (psychological term used for patients) who suffer from mental disorders too need the support of their family, friends, society and the environment in which they live. They too are human beings with emotions, feelings and the need to be loved and wanted. If you visit the NIMH you will realize that a lot of patients there, are fit to be discharged and yet they haven’t been, because their family members refuse to take responsibility of them. The disease with which they are suffering is just going to increase when they realize that. Being put into rooms or wards where no one comes to visit them and where they are just secluded from the world is just going to make them more miserable. Is this going to help them get better soon? NO!
The whole point of having a separate institution for them is just absurd and to make it even more absurd they’re secluded from the society. And us… we are just too busy to give a damn about it! We have our things to worry about and who are we kidding? We have got a lot in our plate to stop for a moment and think about them! Oh but we definitely have time to make fun of them. Yes! That’s something we’d never miss out on.
We call ourselves educated, civilized, modern thinkers, open minded and many more. So stop for a moment and think. I am talking about people who don’t get to celebrate New Year or Christmas or Vesak. I am talking about those who don’t go out on walks or listen to music or do something that they want the most just so they can relax. I am talking about those who don’t get to wear a new dress for Sinhala and Tamil New Year, who don’t get gifts for Christmas, who don’t get to fast during Ramazan, and they don’t deserve this. We rose up against firing crackers when we knew that it would scare off the animals such as dogs and make them feel highly uncomfortable. This is humans I am talking about deprived of their most basic primary need and don’t you think that we have to raise our voices against this as well?
Don’t they deserve our love and support?
Aren’t they a part of our society?
If deinstitutionalization was possible in other countries, if an all inclusive system was possible in other countries then it would be definitely possible in ours and there’s no doubt about it. Are you ready to bring about the change for your brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts? Are you courageous enough to voice your thoughts against this great injustice happening to them?
Are you ready to uncage humans?
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