Importance of early detection for people facing mental health issues

Joseph woke up that morning and realised that he was not in his own bed.

In fact, he was not even in his parent’s house. He could see that there were others with the same coloured attire, and they all appeared drowsy, just like him.

“This is not my shirt. This looks like hospital attire,” he muttered.

There were similar beds around him. There was a dining area, a sofa, and a television nearby. And he could see a middle-aged man pushing a large trolley with many compartments in front of it.

“Wake up everyone. It’s medication time,” said the man clad in a pair of black trousers and a green shirt with a name written on his chest.

But Joseph was unable to see clearly.

Joseph rose from his bed and walked slowly towards the man, whom he assumed was the staff in charge.

He wanted to know how he ended up in hospital. He was in a strange ward setting. It was something he had never experienced before.

What did he do? Was he sick?

Questions and more questions played in his mind. But he couldn’t answer any of them.

“I need to talk to someone,” Joseph told himself. It appeared to the staff that Joseph was preoccupied with his thoughts.

“Finish your breakfast first. Your attending doctor will be here any minute,” the staff told him, even though he had said nothing. It was as though the staff was reading his troubled mind.

Joseph nodded slowly. He reached out to his food trolley, which was served when he was queuing for medication earlier. He was surprised by the taste. He expected the food to be bland, but he managed to finish his meal. Well, perhaps he was just hungry.

Soon after that, Joseph saw a man in his mid-20s walking to the dining area where he was sitting.

“Good morning, Joseph. I’ve been waiting to talk to you since you were admitted, but it seemed you weren’t ready to talk to anyone yesterday.”

Joseph was startled by his words.

Why couldn’t he recall anything at all?

“I’m Dr Hafif, and I’ll be your attending doctor throughout your stay here. How are you feeling today, Joseph?” Dr Hafif asked him.

He nodded his head in reply, without saying anything.

“May I know if you remember anything recently? Perhaps, how you ended up here?” Dr Hafif continued their conversation.

Joseph shook his head.

“From what your mother told me, it seemed that there was a conflict between you and your sister. Can you tell me more about it?” Dr Hafif slowly moved his chair forward. The staff who served Joseph’s medication earlier was present.

“I… I remember that I was angry with her, but that’s it,” Joseph replied.

Without realising what was happening, he broke into tears. He could not continue talking to Dr Hafif anymore. He was soon brought to his bed by the other staff and he felt so drowsy that he fell asleep.

Dr Hafif took a deep breath and nodded a few times before walking up to the area where they kept patients’ records.

“At least I got one sentence from Joseph today. Hopefully, we can try to engage in deeper conversation tomorrow,” Dr Hafif told the staff sitting beside him.

Dr Hafif proceeded to document Joseph’s progress today. He started to go through Joseph’s folder to find out his reason for admission.

It was stated that the change in Joseph’s behaviour started 10 months earlier, but family members felt that he was still manageable at home.

Apparently, for the past 10 months, Joseph had been neglecting his personal hygiene, where he only took showers once a week. And that too, after being prompted by his sister at home.

He started to isolate himself in his room and refused to go out, like he normally did. His family members were unsure why he changed. His niece no longer wanted to play with him, as she often heard Joseph talking and laughing to himself.

His niece also found it odd that Joseph started using old magazines and newspapers to cover his room windows and holes in the wall, to prevent light from entering his room.

It was the conflict with his sister that resulted in him being admitted.

He had attempted to strike his sister with a vase at their house when she removed all the papers he had glued to his windows and the other places in his room.

Dr Hafif had wanted to enquire about this behaviour today, but Joseph was unable to respond.

Dr Hafif made a mental note after he finished his entry on Joseph’s progress today.

“Wished the family had brought him in earlier to seek psychiatric treatment, and not wait for him to be aggressive at home. He may not have required ward admission and could have just come to the clinic. I should psycho-educate Joseph’s family on the importance of early detection of abnormal behaviour and to seek medical treatment earlier. Oh, and to continue with medications and clinic appointments after he is stable enough to be discharged.”

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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