Fri, May 03, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Dealing with mental health issues

By Chou Chin-yi 周晉逸

A number of attacks and cases of physical violence have taken place over the past few years, with a lot of the debate on these incidents centering on the reported mental illnesses of alleged perpetrators.

This has caused anxiety and sown fear, while many of those who have a mental illness — and their families — live in a constant state of vigilance. Some do not dare disclose their condition and are even unwilling to seek treatment, fearful of what others might think.

Despite these worrying developments, many Taiwanese would rather sweep the problem under the carpet than confront the issue head-on.

The World Between Us (我們與惡的距離), a television drama produced by Public Television Service, CatchPlay and HBO Asia, which began airing on March 24, has triggered a debate about psychosis.

With the correct treatment, including antipsychotic medication, counseling and social support, the majority of people with the condition can bring it under control and slowly return to leading a normal life. Hopefully, mental illness will become destigmatized, which would encourage people to seek regular treatment.

For many, the most frightening aspect of their condition is having to deal with social attitudes toward mental health problems rather than the condition itself. The treatment of mental illnesses is continually improving, but medical practitioners still lean heavily toward hospitalization.

It is not uncommon for the family, having brought their charge to hospital for treatment, to be asked to effectively sign away care of their loved one to the hospital — which can result in an extended sojourn of 10 years or more in a chronic diseases ward, while community-based treatment is fairly uncommon.

Once their condition has stabilized, what happens next? In addition to a lack of assistance finding work and insufficient social interaction, those in recovery might face a general sense of inferiority and an inability to break free from the prison of their own minds.

Education and resolving workplace-related problems by providing coaching and support could help bridge the gap between an employer’s expectations and the productive capacity of a person recovering from a mental illness.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Labor should build a comprehensive, long-term support system that helps those in recovery resume a normal life. They need more opportunities, support and encouragement from society.

Furthermore, if those in hospital are given assistance to return to their families and communities on a case-by-case basis, this would be of immense benefit.

Chou Chin-yi is an occupational therapist.

Translated by Edward Jones

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