My name is Badrul Mannan and I live in my own house in Dhaka. I will be 65 in a few months.
My son is thirty now. When he was fifteen he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He is under medication now; he is under control. As it is a very uncertain thing, I do not know when he will relapse.
It is always good to be involved in these types of campaigns, but it induces lots of stress for the person with psychosocial disability. That’s why I didn’t try to involve my son in it, because I know the consequences.
Also, there is a lot of stigma around for this type of disorder. They are being selected for mockery, jest and even physical torture. My son was standing in front of our house and a shopkeeper threw an onion at him, just as an insult. This is the amount of neglect, humiliation and disgrace they put on them. Society thinks it is a curse, or they blame the parents. There are a lot of myths associated with it, and those myths are making their lives miserable. So we hide it.
Suffering due to this psychosocial disability is more from society than the disorder itself. It is the society that gives him more misery and total rejection.
With schizophrenia, most of the time they are quite OK, and some can lead a very controlled life. But as soon as it becomes obvious—visible—they are labelled. Straight away, without any reason, they lose their employment. Firstly, they are not fit to work at that time, because they need hospitalisation, and when these things are known they will lose their employment.
Recently, there was a meeting between employers and the leaders of all types of disability. All other types of disability were asking for quota—a special consideration for employment. My plea was different: ‘People with psychosocial disability are employed with you. They got their employment without any special consideration but as soon as their illness is exposed, they are expelled. I want that you don’t expel them because of this illness! You don’t expel somebody if he has cancer, what is so bad about this? You know he had been working well, why should he be punished now that he is ill?’
Let’s say somebody opens a shop and manages well until suddenly he relapses. He has to be admitted to hospital for two or three months at least. But then he loses his shop and his capital. He has to start all over again.
There are some legal barriers also. In Bangladesh, the Lunacy Act says that once someone is a lunatic, he cannot vote. What type of citizen is one who doesn’t have the right to vote? They cannot own property. His property will be grabbed. He will lose everything. So they are deprived of all rights.
Psychosocial disability needs to be put on the development agenda. People with psychosocial disabilities are noble citizens; they are not criminals.
** Badrul’s son has experienced extreme stigma as a result of his disability. To avoid further stigma for his son, Badrul has chosen not to include a photo of himself. Instead, he has chosen an image of apples, as he understands them to be a symbol which represents the mind.