Professor Chong Siow Ann, 53 who is the Vice- Chairman of the Medical Board (Research) at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and a senior consultant psychiatrist there, wrote a commentary last Friday 7th August 2015 on the power virtue of love that can help persons suffering from schizophrenia recover and even excel in life. I am responding to that commentary in this letter based on my life experience in caring, loving and providing unconditional love to my late wife– Doris Lau Siew Lang.
Unconditional love vital in the recovery of mental disorders
Support and understanding from the community and more importantly, unconditional love from family members are vital in the recovery of persons trying to cope with schizophrenia (“Tender loving care the best treatment for schizophrenia; Friday 6 August; The Straits Times).
Through the many public education talks which I give periodically, I still find that there a lot of misconceptions of schizophrenia – even among the highly educated as many still believe that persons with schizophrenia have split personality when in fact, it is the splitting of the mind that causes sufferers to experience hallucinations and believe that people are trying to harm them. This is why it is absolutely necessary to continue with such public education talks – to reach out to all sectors of the population – because generally people fear what they do not understand.
It is terribly depressing to see a loved go through relapses of schizophrenia and having seen first-hand how my late wife went through 12 relapses of this brain disease, I was often helpless. But through my 40-year journey in caring for her until her passing last year, I have learnt that medication compliance formed only 50 percent of her recovery. The other 50 percent that brought her to normal self was the powerful virtue of love, coupled with lots of patience and understanding.
With undying love from family and friends Mathematical genius John Nash and Prof Sakes were also able to recover from schizophrenia and go on to excel in life, contributing as useful citizens in society.
That said, I encourage all caregivers who are managing loved ones suffering from schizophrenia or other mental disorders to learn as much as they can on mental illness and put into practise the virtues of love and understanding even though the illness can often test one’s patience. But always bear in mind that ultimately, love conquers all.
Raymond Anthony Fernando