Recently I took a certification course on the Social Context of Mental Health and Mental Illness from the University of Toronto.
This is the final assignment:
Instructions for Final Assignment
Explain how the social context has an influence on the experience of mental illness and mental health where you are, In your answer, be sure to address the following components of the social context:
- Families or family life
- The health care system and health care practices
- Social determinants
- Social attitudes
(500 - 750 words) Some considerations:
- "Where you are" can refer to the city where you live, province/state, country, continent, or even the entire globe. Please ensure you clarify what place you are identifying when you are referring to as "where you are".
- You are expected to address each identified component of the social context (families, culture, health care system, social attitudes) and apply at least one concept from the course (lectures or assigned readings) in doing so.
- You can choose to discuss mental illness and mental health by referring to specific disorders if you wish, but it is also okay to speak more generally of mental health and illness.
- This is an English language course so answers must be written in English. I appreciate the extra effort this is for non-native English speakers and also appreciate the extra effort this can involve for peer assessors, but hope everyone is committed to trying to communicate with each other well.
Final Assignment for Certification - Dealing with Bipolar Affective Disorder
My name is Sharudin Jamal. I am from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I am of a predominantly Malay background, the majority ethnic group in Malaysia. I like to approach this assignment from the perspective of me as a sufferer of mental illness. For the past 20 years, I had suffered from a peculiar illness known as Bipolar Affective Disorder. It is a peculiar illness because a person who suffers from Bipolar Disorder doesn’t know he is ill until his behavior is beyond control.
With me, it started very innocently. I just secured a million-dollar training contract then and I was working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week to deliver a Vision Alignment training program to 2,000 staff from a very prominent corporate client. Initially, I experienced a lack of sleep and loss of appetite. I thought it was normal since I was always on the go.
The insidious part of this illness is it accentuates whatever you believe in. At the time of me winning the contract, I read that Prophet Solomon said all his wealth was to test him whether he became grateful or defiance. Certainly, I wanted to become grateful. I also read the Umar, the second caliph of Islam donated half of his wealth to the path of God. And so I followed Umar and spend half of my wealth to help the needy and the poor.
I also decided to live my life according to the Islamic tradition complete with the traditional garb and spotting a goatee. Little did I know that religious inclination is part of the symptom of this illness. My friends and family noticed the changes but they thought I was on the path of righteousness. However, whatever thought that I have at that time expanded. Slowly, from a peace-loving Sufi, I became resentful of things that were deemed “unIslamic”. At the peak of my mania, I threw a rampage at a highland resort located near a casino. Because of that incident, I was brought to a nearby hospital by the Police. Do note that the Police were very supportive. They did not treat me as a criminal but rather as a mentally distressed person.
When the words about my outburst reached my staff and associates, everybody packed their bags and left. Words got around to my clients and they too decided to stop taking up my professional services. Just like that, I lost everything. I lost my business, my friends, and my clients.
Among the Malay community, when somebody was struck with a mysterious illness, the conclusion was he or she was under a spell cast by his enemy. The term is this person “Dah Kena Buat”. So to ward off this evil spell, my well-meaning relatives took me to a few shamans. One shaman asked me to bathe in a bucket of water mixed with 7 different types of flowers. Another shaman asked me to bathe in saltwater while I recited verses from the Quran. The most radical one was a shaman who buried me neck down in the sand by the beach and made me eat a hard-boiled egg afterward.
Fortunately for me, a general practitioner asked me to get professional help. I went to a semi-government hospital that has an excellent facility to deal with mental illness. The psychiatric ward was very comfortable. It is one of the fully air-conditioned facility and the food was served much like a hotel where you can choose what you want to eat for the day from a menu.
For the next 15 years, I was admitted to the hospital 6 times because I was experiencing psychosis. The medication was not as easy as popping a few pills. I had to experiment with a plethora of medicines before they found the one that works. Finally, to subdue the psychosis I was given the ECT. After that treatment I no longer had psychosis. At present, I am still on medication for life.
Presently, because of my professional background and my first-hand experience with mental illness, I am developing a course on Mental Health and Positive Psychology. This is to help the general population deal with this insidious illness and overcome the stigma society has about mental illness.