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[FOUNTAIN]Cries that go mostly unheard

Apr 09,2003
They want warm communication. When they express their inner feelings and thoughts, people around them often ignore them or react coolly. Hiding from such cold treatment, they try to escape deep inside themselves. Hatred and anger mounts, but they fail to handle these emotions.
Sometimes they raise their voices or act on impulse to be recognized, but the response is even more hostility and harsh treatment. Their faces have a stiff look; they avoid people, suffering from language, emotional and memory disorders.
If any of them had decided to treat themselves at some point in the vicious cycle, or if someone had embraced them sincerely, things would have been different.
They have been labeled as “mentally disabled persons,” and they came out to meet together in Seoul’s Yeouido on a warm spring day. They had common sense; they had a clear consciousness and they were emotionally stable.
Friday marked the 36th anniversary of Mental Health Day. About 1,000 mentally disabled persons gathered at a park in Yeouido and had a rare chance to enjoy the bright sunlight and cherry blossoms. The people, registered at social rehabilitation centers, were being treated for neurosis, depression, manic-depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism and dementia. They have been confined by the walls of prejudice. One of them wearing a bright smile told a reporter, “Thank you for smiling at me. I am so happy.”
“I am very sorry for my father and mother because they are living hard lives due to me. I want to get well soon so that I can translate English comic books. I want to help needy people,” he said.
“Patch Adams” is a movie about a medical doctor who open-ed up his mental patients with laughter and clowning. The mo-vie is based on a real-life story.
Mr. Adams was once a mental patient who attempted to commit suicide. He cured himself through other patients who were attentive to his problem, rather than relying on cold-hearted doctors. He learned how to cure the wounded spirits of his patients by communicating with them as if he were one of them. Mr. Adams’s life was a struggle against social prejudice that labels mental patients and isolates them.
Come to think of it, Mental Health Day, April 4, has two fours -- the number regarded as unlucky by our society. People are being asked to tear down such walls of prejudice and ignorance.


by Chun Young-gi

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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