STUDYING in Taiwan has broadened my experience and knowledge and developed my interest in mental health. It happened when I was a master program student of Nursing in Taipei Medical University. Undergoing a clinical practicum for six weeks in Taipei Medical University Hospital has made me feel amazed on how they treat people with mental illness (ODGJ). The most interesting part was reading therapy.
Every morning six days a week, the ODGJ out-patient came and underwent treatment to the Daycare Unit. After the calisthenics activity, they gathered in a room. They tried to read the column in a newspaper published in the morning. It was provided by the attending nurse.
After reading, everyone is tasked to write the title or topic of the article on the board in turns. Then the article was read and presented in the middle of the therapy group. At scheduled time, the nurse came and started reading activity that morning. The nurse read the articles one at a time. Right after the reading of an article, the nurse led a discussion, expressing an opinion and then asked others’ opinions on the article. There was an active and interesting between them.
I could only understand their facial expression and emotion showed by each ODGJ when expressing their opinion on the topic to other people in the therapy group. After all articles discussed, the nurse encouraged them to give a round of applause and then it was closed by saying thanks to people who have read the news that day.
I was amazed. In Indonesia, for five years learning in nursing education, I have never seen this simple yet useful therapy implemented in any mental hospitals either private or state hospitals or even the Social Agency who looks after and treats ODGJ. But in Taiwan, ODGJ were not treated remotely, deemed to know nothing and secluded in their own minds like most mental health patients.
The objective of rehabilitative therapy to patients was to help the disabled individual in developing their emotional, social and intellectual awareness to live, learn and work again in the community normal life with assistance of some professional staff.
There are two strategic principles in conducting rehabilitative therapy, individual-centered therapy which aims to develop patients’ ability through stressful situation interaction. The second is by providing a safe environment and reducing potential stressor which can trigger mental instability.
Reading a newspaper and discussing the news, is an effective and efficient rehabilitative therapy for people with mental illness. It does not require great period of time to prepare the therapy, it does not need a proposal, news and discussion materials can be easily acquired from the newspaper. The nurse functions as the leader who give tasks to read and write the topic on the board, then she just needs to listen and give feedback, also to create active discussion in the therapy session.
Indirectly, the patients are encouraged to think, to talk and present in a group. The activity is done in order to return their confidence. Comments in the group either positive or negative give meanings. The news used in the therapy help them to actualize themselves also function as practice and adaptation to normal life they have to face when they return to the society and family.
Through the routine activity, the nurse can evaluate the patients’ emotional control, social interaction and intellectual ability in presenting the topic of discussion. The nurse will know which patients potentials to go to the next rehabilitation phase of the therapy and can be employed as hospital staff (some of the patients have become nurse secretary assistant, administration staff and general assistant in the hospital as volunteers).
In conclusion, the reading activity can be an alternative rehabilitative therapy useful for the ODGJ, reducing the state burden treatment and potential to be applied in Indonesia. (*)
Rossler Wulf (2006), Psychiatric Rehabilitation Today: An Overview, World Psychiatry, 2006 Oct 5(3): 151-157. (*)
Editor: Bambang Bes