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A visit to the National Center for Mental Health

/ 04:10 AM September 11, 2020

“If some people are so hungry for a feeling of importance that they actually go insane to get it, imagine what miracle you and I can achieve by giving people honest appreciation this side of insanity.”—Dale Carnegie

Are you out of your mind?” “What happened to you, are you not thinking right?” “I’m warning you, don’t ever mess with that guy, he’s abnormal.” We hear these words often as a matter of expression, or as a common remark, without realizing the more serious implication of the statement.

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Have you ever been to the National Center for Mental Health? Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be there; the condition of the patients, whether they are treated well; whether they have enough food; or whether they are given medical attention regularly? I had the opportunity to see for myself the situation of the patients there in my capacity as an active officer of a socio-civic organization. We brought dusters, basic necessities, and assorted foodstuff for the patients, consisting of female senior citizens. The younger ones were kept in isolation because some patients became victims of rape by the hospital guards.

I have heard that some people refuse to visit the hospital because they might get depressed. But my assessment of these mentally-ill patients is that they are more sane and disciplined than some people who are supposed to be mentally fit. During the distribution of the packs of foodstuff, I did not see a single patient who accepted more than one pack. You didn’t have to cajole a patient to render a song number; the diction and pronunciation of English words were quite perfect, even the melody of the song was not off-key. Some were very quiet just staring at you, some were quite gregarious and some would say, “You come back ha?” Some would touch you and smile and then stare again at you. Some were housed in another room with a steel gate because they would sneak out of the pavilion. When we went inside to give them food, they gave us a warm reception; no one rushed or grabbed the food at all.

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We did not visit the pavilion that houses the most mentally disturbed patients, but we had enough glimpse of the pitiful condition of the mentally unwell who were unwilling victims of cruel circumstances. I have been involved in a lot of outreach activities such as feeding programs, donations to the elderly, interactions with special children, medical and dental missions, free legal clinic courtesy of my lawyer-husband, providing Christmas cheer to the New Bilibid Prison and the Correctional Institution for Women inmates, sponsoring livelihood courses for abused women, scholarship grants, and many more, but this particular outreach activity touched me the most. For a short period of time, our worlds were able to connect and communicate with each other. We were able to spark a light in their otherwise vacant stares and, hopefully, heal momentarily their scarred souls. Some may have found more peace in their place of confinement than in the outside world. I just hope that, sooner or later, they will go back to their loved ones and to the acceptance of society, and find peace within themselves.

Let us thank our stars for being blessed with our sanity. Let us thank the Lord for all the blessings we have been receiving, given the chance to spend our lifetime years with our loved ones. But can we also say a prayer for these unfortunate souls, that they will not suffer from further degradation but live in the safety of their own world? Can we extend to them assistance to keep them going? Or if you can spare the time, would you like to visit them and experience within yourselves a lift in spirit as I did?

Give this a thought and find the opportunity to share precious time, genuine laughter, and warm caring, all in the spirit of love, with our brethren at the National Center for Mental Health.

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Dr. Rema Tan Manzano, a senior citizen, is a member of the Philippine Mediation Center (Las Piñas unit) and an active officer of several socio-civic organizations.

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