Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Art Therapy: SAMH Art exhibition @ Marine Parade Community Library

There's an art exhibition, at the Marine Parade Community Library (MPCL), by the residents of the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH). The artworks are done as part of their treatment for social rehabilitation.

What these pictures tell me is that you cannot judge a person's abilities by their disabilities.

WARNING -- Ramble:
When it comes to acceptance and discussion of mental health issues, the situation in Singapore is no different from other developing countries. It's always been taboo, or misunderstood. I'm sure acceptance and understanding has increased over the years but there's still much to be done.

Not preaching. Just speaking from personal experience. I don't have mental health issues. At least none that I know of. But I think everyone has some form of mental health issues one time or other, and only in degrees. :)

Anyway, I've encountered people who have mental health issues. One was this guy in my unit when I was serving my full-time National Service years ago. In one of our bantering sessions in the bunk, he told the few of us about his condition. We thought he was joking, but he wasn't. He said he was on medication and would always have to be.

He was an OK guy (still is). You'd never guess he had "mental-problems". In fact, compared to my platoon sergeant, he's thousands of times more sane.

I was forced to question my assumptions and stereotypes of mental health patients. I'd presumed they were in a different (read, negative) class on their own. But how different were they from say, people who have to take long-term medication for heart or kidney problems?

Then I joined the Public Library Service. That's where I met more people who seem to have problems. Like one reader (gender withheld) who would regularly report to the staff on duty, in conspiratorial tones, about people behaving suspiciously at certain sections of the library. We always checked and of course there was nothing. But we just played along.

So far, I've not encountered any who acted violently. There have been the odd case of staff being harassed but for those cases, I wonder if the culprit was really suffering from mental health issues, or just plain meaness disguised as having mental problems.

Apparently SAMH offers more than psychiatric counseling. Their services for individuals or families include social or relationship problems. More about SAMH's services here.


I was also told that the artists in this exhibition have no family support or are neglected by their families because of their illness. SAMH provides support to these people by housing them in their Homes, providing therapy, with the ultimate aim of preparing these patients for independent living.




The art pieces are for sale. The exhibition started last Wednesday, and I'm told some of the art pieces were sold already.

Last rambling thought:
I think it's not a question of IF we would face mental health issues, but WHEN. Intuitively we know (at least I know) that mental health issues (like Dementia) increases with age. I don't know of any insurance policy that covers mental health problems. How to you guard against that?

I'm glad the library is lending support organisations like SAMH. But I wonder how we can do more to get people to think further beyond what is presented.Or more important, to question their assumptions about what is seen, and what's not.

Marine Parade Community Library is co-located with the Marine Parade Community Club and The Necessary Stage.

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