Ramadan at The Psych Ward

Ramadan Di Wad Psikiatari

A few years ago, I got self-admitted into a psych ward. It was not a fun experience, far from the help I sought.

Facilities were poor & patients weren’t treated as people. It was basically a minimum security lockup where the medical officers (MOs) spent their nights playing DOTA while we slept.

It was Ramadan.

I wasn’t allowed time outside the ward, because they couldn’t spare the MOs to escort me, fearing I’d escape.

I found this funny because:

  • I admitted myself

  • There was a map of the hospital grounds on the notice board, escape made easy

Anyway… 

Since I wasn’t ‘allowed’ out, I’d hang out at the entrance, arms stuck through the locked grill gate and try to get some sun. Why? Sunlight helps with mood regulation.

The female psych ward was across, and strangely, unlike us, female patients were expected to clean their own ward.

The male ward had cleaners, but I would’ve done the cleaning myself, just to have something to do.

This particular Ramadan morning,  I saw someone screaming at a patient in the female ward.

“You’ve been here a long time, still don’t know how to mop the floor. Stupid!”

This person (a dietician, I was told later) saw me looking at her and said…

“Do you want to marry a girl like this? Can’t sweep or mop. What a waste.”

I took a deep breath, and took a minute to answer.

“Do they sell mee goreng around here? Nasi lemak?”

“Why?” this person answered.

“It’s probably better if you just eat. No use fasting if that’s how you talk to patients.”

The person promptly stormed off.

Moral of the story? Quite a few. Take your pick.

(Note: I’ve shortened some parts of the conversation to fit this post. It was much longer and involved)

Partly because of my experience in this particular psych ward (your experience may differ), I ghosted my doctors & stopped medication for 9 months.

The other part of why I stopped was that I was too tired with the discipline of maintaining stability. Meds, therapy, eating right, sleeping early & waking up early, even on weekends, exercising.. it just tired me out.

It’s that much harder for people with Bipolar Disorder to maintain the ‘normalcy’ that seems so effortless for everyone else.

And I did this all while maintaining a steady job which I enjoyed and did well.

FYI, the female patient? She had been at the ward for over a year, effectively abandoned by her family. She also had a kid she hadn’t seen ever since she was warded.

And this is very common. People dump unwanted relatives at psych wards pretty regularly, especially near Hari Raya.

At least the MCO will slow that down this year.

Why share?

I was bored and feeling nostalgic. I always think about my time in the psych ward during Ramadan.

Also, it helps remind me how little some of us matter to others.

I’m not discouraging anyone from seeking help though, even getting themselves admitted if need be.

But, manage your expectations. Mental healthcare has been sidelined & underfunded for decades. Stigma still exists, even amongst medical professionals.

The mental well-being of citizens has not been a priority of any administration, until maybe the last few years. Much of the delivery of services is not patient-centric, despite our good intentions.

So what can we do to change things?

  • Get educated on mental illnesses, act based on scientifically valid information

  • Support awareness & destigmatisation initiatives, don’t diss allies

  • Talk to your MP, lobby the health & related ministries for better societal healthcare infra, not just hospitals

  • Remove our reservations to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Recognise & dignify Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) as full citizens.

For starters.

Share your story with us today!​

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