If you feel like running
The grass is greener inside your heart
Your heart has to be followed even when life falls apart
Love who you’re becoming
Sometimes we win but sometimes we fall
Story still remains untold
We all have ONE LIFE and A DESTINY which we have to unfold.
“Keep a clear eye toward life’s end. Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature. What you are in his sight is what you are and nothing more. Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received…but only what you have given; a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.”
~ Francis of Assisi
What is real is the things in front of you – the people, the love, the storms; the present moment is what matters. Do not allow pride to swallow your humility and most importantly, do not lose sight of your fundamental purpose for your very existence in your brief sojourn on Earth.
You don’t own anything in life, the no-self principle. Just the same, there is nothing in life you can take away or carry with you – except the legacy and footprints in the heart’s of the people you have loved, laughed, comforted and weathered storms together; these are the indelible treasures of your legacy you leave behind which is the epitome reflecting a life that is well-lived, meaningful, using every single bit of the talents in which God has so gracefully blessed upon you with to create such a difference in this world.
When the final curtain draws, the congregation that gathers shouldn’t be a communion of grieving hearts, but a gathering of a community to honour this true celebration of a life filled with happy memories imprinted till the very end.
“The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.”
The concept of ‘Dignity’ originated three centuries ago. By the 21st century, human dignity is considered to be central in human bioethics and is grouped into human and social dignity. Human and social dignity must be complementary in health delivery as envisaged in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The World Dignity Project grouped dignity into three groups; human dignity (external) that covers physical care and respect for the individual; self-dignity (internal) that covers the feeling of empowerment in the treatment process; and universal dignity that covers how society treats those with mental illness. Dignity in mental health means having the hope, value and worth of oneself, one’s family, immediate community and also the country. Dignity also means freedom from being labeled, stigmatised or marginalised.
The theme ‘Dignity in Mental Health’ for World Mental Health Day 2015 is a significant leap from last year’s ‘Living with Schizophrenia’, which specifically focused on the struggles of schizophrenia patients, the availability of treatment processes and the achievements. This year’s theme encompasses the core elements of fighting mental health stigma and the promotion of better mental health itself.
The major stakeholders in mental health services are the mental health professionals, patients and their caregivers (as the primary service users), and the community at large. All of these parties have important roles to play with regards to dignity in mental health.
Achieving dignity among mental health service users will only be a dream without properly trained mental health professionals to deliver adequate evidence-based treatments and interventions. However, constraints on human resources and limited governmental budget on mental health services usually restrict the amount of training that can be provided and the number of mental health workers who could be trained. This is where the concept of ‘skill-mix’ and ‘task-shifting’ comes in handy. In skill-mix, groups of mental health professionals with different set of skills and roles combine to offer help to each patient they see. In task-shifting, activities previously held by specific mental health professionals are transferred to other health workers or the community to be applied at other kinds of platforms. Mental health professionals delivering the service must also be compassionate while handling the service users so that the engagement and rapport is sustainable. Good communication in interpersonal relation is pivotal as there is a significant relationship between the ability of a professional to listen with the amount of respect a patient feels. Patients and caregivers will feel appreciated when handled by mental health professionals who are caring and appreciative of the needs and concerns of their service users. The patient’s self-worth also improves when those delivering the service applies a patient-centred approach, where patient’s autonomy is given due consideration. This approach demands the provision of adequate information regarding the treatment process by the professionals to the patients, and encourages the patients to be involved in the decision-making process. On another note, dignity in mental health among mental health professionals means being open-minded in considering new ideas and receiving constructive criticism from other mental health professionals and also those from other medical specialties. Mutual respect is a two-way relationship which could open more doors and ideas when solving complex issues pertaining to the patients and their caregivers. Synthesis and collaboration is better than antithesis and confrontation, be it when dealing with those suffering from mental health issues or professionals from other medical or non-medical groups.
A person suffering from mental illness is a human being. This individual yearns to be considered and addressed as an individual with his or her own characteristics and personality. Promoting dignity in mental health among the service users means doing away with labels such as ‘patient’ or ‘client’. These individuals all present to the mental health services with names and they should be addressed appropriately. Improper labels such as ‘psycho, psych patient, the disturbed one’ etc., that are commonly heard during discussions or referrals even among medical staff must be banned and thrown away from the mind of any self-respecting individual. People with mental health issues need to be given proper and adequate access to assessment and treatment opportunities. It is sad to know that even in developed countries such as the United States and European countries, around 50% – 60% of people suffering from mental illness were not granted proper access to mental health services while in countries like China, this percentage had climbed close to 90%. This is why mental health services must be integrated with primary care and public healthcare services. This integration will definitely open more channels for access and promote early detection and treatment, thus offering better prognosis. At this period of time, the treatment of mentally ill individuals is not only confined to the provision of medication to get them well. Psychosocial rehabilitation is an important component of ‘management’ which would not only assist with remission but also with the recovery process. Recovery in mental health means “living a satisfying, hopeful and contributing life, even when there are ongoing limitations caused by mental health problems and illnesses”. Recovery-oriented practice is based on promoting dignity and respect. It recognises the possibility of recovery and wellness, while at the same time maximising self-determination and self-management of the illness and mental health. It also helps families to understand and support their affected loved ones.
Too often, we as mental health providers are guilty of propelling the stigmatisation of this condition and effectively, robbing these individuals of their inherent right to dignity. We look at an individual in the ward, suffering from severe schizophrenia for instance, we have conditioned and automatically slap a societal-imposed limit within our minds to “perceive” and “view” them in the most clichéd of stereotypes. We equate these individuals’ respective self-worth and abilities to their mental diagnoses and treat them as such – mentally incapable, dysfunctional and a nuisance to the society. We forget that there is another part of these individuals, a positive part which just like any other, deserves to be respected, and are dignified in their own way.
When I was at Woodbridge Hospital, Singapore for a Conference on Mental Health last year, the Head of Departments told me something profoundly amazing. The philosophy in that hospital is to focus on that part of the individual which is sane, sociable, which is kind, which is intelligent. They weren’t focusing on the psychosis. They weren’t ignoring the schizophrenic fantasies. They were focused on something else. And I thought, “Wow! You guys have understood!.” If you focus on somebody’s faults – the fact that they sometimes act in a dysfunctional way or they speak in hallucinatory ways or they behave in a violent manner to themselves or others…if you focused on that, then you make this person into someone or make this dysfunction a whole of them, rather than just a part of them. How about focusing on the rest of the time when they are perfectly – I won’t say normal because being normal is stigmatising the so-called abnormal – when they are fully functioning individuals and able to flow in the society without any problems or reactions from other people.
This is such an important psychology to see. I was so pleased that at least somebody is getting the message.
In life, it is what you water, what you focus on, is what grows in life. If we could only accord these individuals and respect them as such, you see things most people will never notice. You see their exquisite beauty. You see the grass becomes so beautiful, rocks, features in there which you never noticed before. You see just the bark on the trees. The tessellated texture becomes exquisite.
Of course that’s a great test. It is easy to see the beauty in the hillside. But to see such beauty in these people bearing these psychiatric diagnoses is more of a tough ask. But to these patients, this is an amazing change; they feel that someone is respecting them. It is a strange experience for them to have someone who looks at them and sees something beautiful and good that they too start to change the way they look at themselves.
If I can see something in them, and they respect me for being honest and truthful, then they think maybe that such beauty does exist in them; and they start looking for it themselves. The schizophrenic patient starts to see another part of their being. The beautiful part. When that starts to grow and prosper, you find that when these patients get discharged, they are healed. The reason, the sickness, the pain and whatever it was that led them to the ward, is now gone. It’s amazing what happens.
When you have a sickness, say a cancer, many of them forget that most of their body hasn’t got cancer. That there are still other parts of them – focusing on these other aspects give the patients incredible strength, incredible fitness and power. You can harness that power, the power of the positive side of the illness; the power of the positive side of someone’s behavior. I think many people can understand how that alone is therapeutic. When you focus on the other side, the healing happens.
Most profoundly, these individuals learn to accept themselves beyond their diagnosis and so-called “labels”, and feel that they are worthy and dignified individuals by their own right, they go on to do amazing things in life. As Freud once said of his purpose in life, is simply, “to work, and to love.”
Finally, dignity in mental health among community members hovers around the capacity of the community to accept the importance of mental health. It is just not enough to say that there will be no health without mental health. Mental health issues should be freely discussed among community members and confessions of ongoing mental health issues or diagnoses of mental disorders should not lead to rejection and despair. The confession should instead mobilise family and community support, and provide hope and practical help. Members of the community must be empowered to detect and approach individuals suffering from mental health issues. These mental health first-aiders can offer information, practical help such as problem-solving skills or encourage the sufferers to get professional help. Community empowerment can occur in a community that places high regards on mental health literacy. High level of mental health literacy will greatly assist primary prevention of mental illness. In a technological advanced era where information spreads like wildfire electronically, community empowerment can easily occur through the use of internet and social media.
Dignity in mental health is about entities that foster the de-stigmatisation, de-labeling and de-marginalisation of people with mental illnesses; they have the right and equality to live a meaningful and contributing life. The stigma stops here. It is time to act.
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss;If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much;If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
…….As we left, I was sure to look him in the eye and smile. I wanted him know I saw him … that he wasn’t invisible and that he was appreciated by a fellow traveller. In the briefest of moments, I wanted him to know he went from stranger to friend.
I hope when he goes home tonight and slips into his cold sheets that this good man feels loved and perchance his world might feel a little less lonely.
Pop’s words, “be nice to each other” are etched in my heart and soul. For, if we can’t be nice to each other, nothing else matters.
I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and non-existent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.
Time never stands still; it must steadily march on, and with the marching come the changes. But for I have learned, God’s love never changes; through it all.
My heart is overflowing with gratitude to think that a loving Lord who knew his “child” is running into trouble and would inspire this good woman to do, feel and love in a manner unexpected and unorthodox for her, so His “child” could find a little comfort.
Just like that old man, slip under the blanket, and fall asleep feeling the warmth in her heart knowing that someone cares, unconditionally.
Perhaps when we look back on our lives, from that place that feels so far away, the events we experienced through darkness will be made light as noon day. Then, and perhaps only then, it will finally be seen … the times we felt most alone, we in fact walked with heavenly beings. Someone like B1… 🙂
Donks.. thank you for walking this journey with me and sticking by me in spite of everything. You didn’t have to, you have so much going on, lionkey, the wedding, papa lion, but yet you stayed. I swear it’s true…i wouldn’t have made it till this date if it wasn’t for you..
Much pride needed to be swallowed adding this to my list of things I’ve learned as a “twenty-fiver”, not gonna lie.
I’ve always been one of those kids who needed to learn the hard way and this is what I’ve learned: more often than not, your mom knows you better than anyone…maybe even better than you know yourself. Nine times out of ten, my mom was right. It would have saved me a hell of a lot of heartache had I listened to her, and she may have one or two less grey hairs on her head (Sorry, Mum Darling!)
“….You are very lucky. You are blessed with an extraordinarily powerful mind. You have the equivalent of a Ferrari engine for a brain. That’s why you are a major winner in the making, a potential champion. But you must address one major problem. You have the brakes of a bicycle; you have difficulty controlling the power of your brain. Sometimes it runs away with you, so you may crash into walls or fail to slow down or stop when you should. This can cost you the race.
Whoever said that best friends were the chocolate chips of life was definitely onto something. They’re the sweetness, sprinkled in between the muck of life – they’re the cause for celebration and excitement; they’re with you, always, even when you’re sure you don’t need them (but you always do).
Best friends are… well, best friends are everything.
You always think you know how much you need and appreciate them, but then the thing happens to you that you’re not ready to handle alone and suddenly, swiftly and unapologetically, you realize just how life-saving a friendship with your favorite person really is.
We weave in and out of touch, sometimes just hours and other times, we let the chaos of life and love and family and work carve out deep craters of space, yet we fill them quickly and absentmindedly.
But life happens and it wedges itself in between, into small crevices and swiftly into small holes; in places we never even thought to safeguard. But magically, without fail, best friendships prevail, navigating their way through.
And, all along, we make promises to each other. Some spoken out loud and some silently promised. We make them to each other and for each other because we love, respect and want more than anything to protect one another.
We make these promises because we want to know that something gold can stay. We make them because we know that nothing and no one will ever love us this good, this wholesomely, this proudly, this honestly.
1. I promise to disagree with you often, love you always and respect whatever it is you decide.
2. I promise to tell you that he’s all wrong for you, but support you regardless
3. I promise to take the fall for something you did – knowing full well that you’d do it for me in a heartbeat.
4. I promise to laugh at you when you fall: down the stairs, at a party, on the sidewalk, on the catwalk. I promise to laugh so hard I actually start to pee a little.
5. I promise to tell you when you’re making a mistake – and then help you get out of it.
6. I promise to remind you, always, that things could be worse.
7. I promise to protect you from others – and sometimes even from yourself.
8. I promise to be there when you need me, to come running as fast as I can and to be with you in spirit, in person or on the phone, so you’re never experiencing the tough stuff alone.
9. I promise never to bite my tongue and always to tell you how I feel – especially about the heinous pink top and those hideous sequined pants.
10. I promise to stand up for you, stand up to you and stand with you, even when I have no clue what we’re standing for.
12. I promise always to be your right-hand woman, your partner in crime, the yin to your yang, the Bert to your Ernie – no matter how many years it’s been since college or how long has passed since the last time we blacked out together.
13. I promise never to assume you want to share that chocolate bar, that pint of ice cream or that jar of Nutella – so I’ll just bring two instead.
14. I promise to let you run off and lose yourself, find yourself, reinvent and reimagine yourself, but I promise never to let you get so far as to forget your way home.
15. I promise to make you want more, to make you reach for more, to make you want to do better than the shoes you’re standing in now — even when you don’t know what you want.
16. I promise to love you, unconditionally, through every high, low, peak and valley life takes us through.