Day trip for special guests
The Yangon Mental Hospital stands quietly in a serene part of the city, its blue roof tops standing out against the surrounding green trees and bushes. Psychiatric care was introduced to Myanmar around 1886 under the British Government. Back in those days the hospital was first build near the City Prison, and was pejoratively referred to as the ‘Prison for the Insane’.
In 1926, the hospital moved to Tadagalay village, 8 miles from Yangon. It was later renamed the State Mental Hospital in 1962 and the Rangoon Psychiatric Hospital in 1967. It moved again to its current location, yet still couldn’t shake its disreputable nickname.
“It’s an occasion we celebrate each year, where we take them into society. It gives them an opportunity to communicate with residents, and not feel alienated or cast aside,” said Daw Tin Tin Win, medical superintendant Yangon Psychiatric Health Hospital.
The trip, which is held once a year, is supervised by the Thingan Kyun Social Services community. The civil society organisation regularly donates to the hospital and its president Daw Daywi Khin is regarded as a mother by many patients.
“They always pester me to plan for future trips, like a child pesters their mother. So it’s like I planned the whole thing for my children,” said Daw Daywi Khin. The selected patients and supervisors visited the Kyaik Khuauk and Pardagyi pagodas, as well as the National Races Village. The journey started at 6:45 am with the arrival of the two red air-con buses.
As the buses departed, the mood lifted as they all sang rock songs. The first stop was Kyaik Khaut Pagoda in Thanlyin township, where they enjoyed breakfast and offered donations to the monks at the pagodas.
Parda Gyi Pagoda was next on their stops, before checking out the family and building displays at Thaketa’s National Races Village. Here they had lunch, and sang their favourite “sing and be happy” song.
Music and singing are a part of the rehabilitation process, and a highlight for the patients. According to mental health experts, singing can be an important mode of self expression and a way of connecting with others. Combined with the travel, meeting and interacting with people provides other forms of mental stimulation – helping to quell symptoms of fear, anxiety of depression that sometimes builds in the patients.
The group also spent time praying at the pagoda. One of the most common wish was to return home from the hospital. There are about 1500 patients at the hospital, 500 of whom do not have a home to return to.
“I have lived [in the hospital] half my life, I want to go back home,” said Ko Thura, a 35-year-old patient. “I miss my family,” he added.
The patients were given K8,000 to spend at their leisure during the trip. Most spent their money on snacks and presents for their friends back at the hospital.
“I bought French fries for my friend. They like it but couldn’t join this time,” said Daw Kyi Pyar, who has been a patient for the past 10 years.
As the sun set, the buses made their way back to the hospital. Most of the group fell asleep, exhausted but delighted by the experience and excitement of the travel.
From: Myanmar Times