The mentally-ill individuals in our neighborhoods

March 28, 2018
The mentally-ill individuals in our neighborhoods
Sahoub Baghdadi

Al-Watan newspaper

THE physically and mentally weak, including women, children and the elderly as well as individuals with various disabilities, always face various types of abuse in society. People who are exposed to or witness such acts of violence are asking: What are the best ways to reduce the suffering of its victims?

It is important to understand that violence takes different forms: physical abuse such as beating, torture, imprisonment and sexual assault; and psychological abuse such as verbal abuse, insulting and making the victim feel that he or she is worthless either by threat, intimidation or neglect.

When you neglect a person who is under your care, whether they are children, the elderly or the handicapped, it means you do not meet their basic needs, thus negatively affecting the quality of their life.

Last week we have seen pictures and video clips of a child suffering from Down syndrome on social networking sites. The child’s face was stained with blood as a result of torture and we don’t know who committed that crime against that innocent child and for what reason.

I have received another video of a mentally challenged individual in worn-out clothes. He was seen pushing a cart at 3 a.m. and it was extreme winter. I came to know that this poor individual had been in the care of his mother; after her death his condition became worse as he started wandering in the streets day and night while his relatives did not pay any attention to him.

There are many such cases in our neighborhood; this person is not the first or last. We should know that these mentally ill people are at risk of being run over, theft and assault. We often ignore this factor while highlighting the threat they pose to society. Everyone of us should take care of this group of people and protect them from harm by informing their families or the authorities.

I have been in contact with the Human Rights Commission to learn about ways to reduce such cases and help vulnerable individuals. I have received good response from the HRC and a lot of information. I have learned that neglect and abuse may be caused by the poor social or financial condition of the family. The work of HRC and other human rights groups must focus on identifying the reasons for such mentally ill people being abandoned in the streets in our society.

If the victim belongs to a poor family, the HRC must contact charitable societies to provide necessary assistance to these unfortunate individuals. If they fail to do so, then the danger will not only befall on these individuals but they will also cause problems to society. In such cases, the HRC should contact with police in the neighborhood. I contacted the National Center for Security Operations by dialing 911 and received a positive response.

They told me that in the event I come across any mentally ill person in the streets I should contact the center, which will in turn send a security patrol to check on the person's situation. The next steps will be taken by the security authorities considering the interests of all parties.

Security is the first requirement for addressing such cases. People can call either the center at 911 or the police at 999, and all security agencies will be ready to extend necessary assistance. In addition, they can also contact the hot line No. 1919 of the Labor and Social Development Ministry. When I called 1919, a woman employee furnished me with the same information. She said they receive complaints and provide psychological counseling services to mentally ill people around the clock.

Khuloud Khaled, head of an initiative titled “No to Violence”, told me that ignorance is the main reason that makes a person victim of abuse and torture by people around him. Education and supervision are the rights of every individual while efforts must be made to remove injustice inflicted upon individuals by providing advice in the first stage and then reporting to the authorities.

From my experience, I can say there is good cooperation from government departments and security agencies, which complement each other, and this gives us hope that we can easily exterminate abusive practices from our society. At the same time, individuals and societies should enlighten the public on how to stop violence and aggression by reporting to the authorities.

I call upon all victims of abuse, violence and torture to take a positive step today before things get worse and complicated. We must know that the attacker will consider silence as a sign of approval. The first step toward solving the problem is to recognize the problem itself, and then take necessary action to stop violence. What are you waiting for?

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