The Medical Mission on Aging to the Philippines in 2015 taught us many lessons;
After the Tsunami that hit the Philippines, victims and rescuers were briefed on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The response we got was ignorance and pride of the Filipino people claiming that they are a people who are resilient and strong ready to weather any storm. Clearly, the medical community and government's lack of understanding of the consequences to traumatic life events, grief & loss issues, consequent depression and complications of suicide were not addressed.
The acute care mental health facility in the capital city has become a long term facility with significant lack of programming to discharge patients to nowhere. The site is clearly run down and neglected with the government department of health's lack of understanding about mental illness and failed attempt to deinstitutionalize them by creating local transitional residential facilities and community-based outpatient programs in the respective island communities.
In the absence of community-based mental health clinics. Centralizing acute Mental Health Hospital in the Capital City of a diverse scattered geographical country of over 7,000 islands offers no opportunity to reintegrate patients back to their island communities. Consequently, acute patients become institutionalized all throughout their lives and recidivism is a major problem. The national mental health acute care facility is overcrowded and has become a home for most if not all who suffer from mental illness and families have resigned to leave their loved ones there for good.
Sharing perspective on aging and raising Dementia Awareness as a medical and neurological diagnosis riddled with associated psychiatric symptoms and need for Palliative and Hospice are very challenging issues to tackle in a country where the end of life is strongly believed to be solely in God's hands. From a medical perspective, how does Palliative & Hospice care get translated in medical practice? How do we provide dignity and respect to our elders as they age? An ethical dilemma!
Last but not least an attempt to connect with influential government officials to be a voice in raising mental health awareness in the Philippines.
It's a long journey. A pensive moment to reflect on the medical mission's years of frustration but holding on to optimism that someday somehow our voice will leave behind an echo of awakening!
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