The HEALTH : June 2019 | Page 22

The Health | june, 2019 22 Junior Caring for her son Haliza speaks out about his son’s compromised mental health 5 8-year old Haliza Abdul Halim is the founder of a non-governmental organisa- tion (NGO) called Pertubuhan Kebajikan Baitul Fiqh (PBKF). PBKF was established as a home to shelter and help poor single mothers, teenagers who have been involved in various social problems, as well as orphan care. Her fuel to help Although Haliza founded PBKF as a way to support the less fortunate with all kinds of social problems, she has done so because of her personal experience as a caregiver to her son. This mother of five has a son suffering from unspecified schizophrenia. “I have five children, most are all grown up and married. The youngest however, is currently 19 years old and has been diagnosed with unspecified schizo- phrenia. I have been taking care of him lately by myself since my husband’s passing.” The diagnosis Haliza is not only a mother of five but also the founder of a non-governmental organisation which helps troubled women. I have five children, most are all grown up and married. The youngest however, is currently 19 years old and has been diagnosed with unspecified schizophrenia. I have been taking care of him lately by myself since my husband’s passing.” “It all started when he started getting bullied at school. We actually had no clue about the bullying – he would just come home and tell us that he doesn’t want to return to school anymore. He was fifteen then,” she starts. “The very first time he exhibited symptoms, he told us he wanted to leave the house at night because he said his friends were being bullied. This was close to midnight mind you, so we forbade him to leave. This led to him crying. From then on, he began talking to himself. It often sounded like he was scolding some- one or somewhat defending himself from a scolding,” says Haliza. “I was utterly shocked when the doctor diagnosed him with unspecified schizophrenia. The doctors at the hospital still do not know on which spectrum his schizophrenia falls on since the diagnosis.” Haliza’s youngest son used to be a jovial kid, how- ever he has become more reserved since, according to her. The definition of schizophrenia Schizophrenia is a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behaviour – leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation. by episodes in which the patient is unable to distinguish between real and unreal experiences. As with any illness, the severity, duration and frequency of symptoms can vary. Symptoms fall into several categories: Positive psychotic symptoms: Hallucinations, such as hearing voices, paranoid delusions and exaggerated The misconceptions or distorted perceptions, beliefs and The complexity of schizophrenia may help behaviours. Vincent van Gogh explain why there are misconceptions Negative symptoms: A loss or a was one of the most about the disease. Schizophrenia does decrease in the ability to initiate plans, famous people in not mean split personality or multiple- speak, express emotion or find pleasure. personality. Most people with schizophrenia history who had Disorganization symptoms: Confused are not dangerous or violent. They also are struggled with and disordered thinking and speech, not homeless nor do they live in hospitals. schizophrenia. trouble with logical thinking and Most people with schizophrenia live with sometimes bizarre behaviour or abnormal family, in group homes or on their own. movements. Impaired cognition: Problems with attention, The symptoms concentration, memory and declining educational When the disease is active, it can be characterized performance. “He does things like any normal person would. He understands the tasks given to him, he keeps a close relationship with all of his siblings, and he is a very smart student. He was home schooled for PT3 and scored good results,” Haliza expresses lovingly. “However, the only complication he truly has is that he talks to himself and when he doesn’t take his medication, he has a habit to hit his head.” Getting the support Haliza first went to Subang Jaya Medical Centre for his medical appointments till someone informed me about the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA). “Associate Professor Dr Ng Chong Guan is his doctor, he is also the Vice President of MMHA. I became a member of MMHA and attended all the courses and programmes on how to be a caregiver.” From MMHA, another person recommended Haliza to place her son in a day-care at University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC). “The day-care has a really interesting programme, it teaches them soft skills. He learns how to knit rugs and cook. They would make sandwiches and other foods which they would then sell at a special café at UMMC. This café is actually ran by people living with mental disorders. I also sometimes send him for draw- ing therapy which I feel helps him.” Being a caregiver Living and caring for a son with schizophrenia is no easy business, however it has helped Haliza to become a better mother and caregiver to her son. She lamented the tough experience she had bringing up her son, but as time goes by, she felt thankful that she was given the opportunity to take care of him as she does now. “When I started taking care of him, it felt really tough and challenging. However it has become easier. He is going into his fourth year since his diagnosis now, and I feel better and more thankful to have him in my life.” “In just a bit, I’m driving him to UMMC. The day- care are taking them to a golf course to play some golf! – I hope he has a lot of fun,” smiles Haliza softly. Haliza now operates PBKF, located in SS14, Subang Jaya. The establishment helps to facilitate and rehabilitate poor single mothers as well as teenagers involved with various social problems. — The Health