Community and Family: Caring for the Mentally-Ill

Article excerpt

Byline: CORAZON ALMA G. DE LEON

Caring for the mentally ill is not only a family affair. It should take the form of a community effort. Families who take care of mentally ill persons exhaust their financial and human resources, thus becoming less productive as citizens. Often, some family members have to give up jobs or productive endeavors inorder to be caregivers to a mentally ill sibling. The result is, these otherwise normal and capable citizens are unable to help in community development.

On the otherhand, with no community intervention, those with mental disorders become vulnerable to being abused. Being discriminated against, being physically restrained, being sexually or physically abused, being kept away from treatment ? are just among the violations to the mentally ill persons.

An organization known as the World Association for Psychosocial Rehabiliation, Philippines (WAPR), under the leadership of Dr. Lourdes L. Ignacio, has taken the challenge of reducing the burden associated with mental disorders. The worldwide organization, for many years now, conducts programs to help families and communities assume the responsibilities of caring for the mentally ill through psychosocial rehabilitation.

Among its annual programs are conferences, mini olympics and teaching modules to expose caregivers to strategies in leading the mentally-ill back to a normal community life. Through these programs, the organization disseminates information on support services, treatment options, new drugs for mental disorders.

Community mental health efforts should include making political leaders aware of the problems and needs related to mental disorders. It should also include networking with professional organizations working on mental health programs. Hopefully, community leaders can collaborate with these organizations on projects.

Here are some of the projects supported by the World Health Organization in other countries: Suicide prevention in Marshall Islands; Life Skills Education for Children in Beijing, China; Mental Health Care through Primary Health Care Training in Egypt; Creating Community Mental Health services in Yemen; and Mother-Infant Interaction Programs in South Africa.

In the national level, the WAPR has been advocating that psychosocial rehabilitation be included on the national plan for mental health. Meetings with the Department of Health has pushed for the inclusion of health policies that enable all persons with mental disorders or whose psychosocial imbalance may be compromised to obtain services according to their needs.

But beyond the policies and programs, the more crucial endeavor of the WAPR is the empowerment of families who carry the burden of care. To help families are self-help groups and small group homes which provide special programs for those with mental disorders. …