Long staying patients who call mental hospital home
Date: 27 November 2006
By: Annie Freeda Cruez
Kuala Lumpur: Lim (not her real name) is 106-years-old and the oldest mental patient in the country.
With no one and nowhere to turn to, she has been calling the Hospital Permai in Johor home for the last 50 years, although she no longer require hospitalization.
Sadly, Lim is only one of more than 900 mental patients aged 45 years and above who have become long-staying inmates at four psychiatric institutions in the country - Hospital Permai, Hospital Bahagia (in Perak), Hospital Sentosa (Sarawak) and Hospital Bukit Padang (Sabah).
Many were abandoned by their relative due to the stigma attached to mental illness and have been staying in the hospitals for 30 years or more, depriving other patients who need to be hospitalized.
In an attempt to solve the problem and provide the long staying inmates with a semi balance of normal life, the health Ministry is building flats to house them.
“These are for patients who have been cured of their mental illness. Despite their recovery, their families do not want them back,” Health Minister Datuk Chua Soi Lek said after launching the Mental Health month organized by the Mental Health Foundation at Putra World Trade Centre yesterday.
He said at the flats, which would initially be built at new mental institutions in Tampoi and Alor Star, the inmates would look after themselves with minimal supervision.
More importantly, they would not be occupying beds in the hospitals, which are needed for patients suffering from acute mental illness.
Dr Chua said at least 15 to 20 per cent of patients at mental institution were those abandoned by their families.
Citing an example, he said at least 300 inmates out of total of 2000 at Hospital Bahagia, which began operation in November 1911 as the country’s first mental asylum, had been staying at the hospital for more than 25 years.
He said Hospital Permai had about 200 such inmates while the other mental hospitals had between 150-300 long-staying inmates each.
“It is sad that the family members have abandonees these inmates who had been given a clean bill of health and were ready to rejoin society. The family has instead passed the buck on to hospital staff.”
This article was first published in The News Straits Times, Monday, August 14, 2006