COC Report: Family Support Group - General Hospital Penang
Date: 30 October 2007
In February 2004, Janssen-Cilag, the pharmaceutical division of Johnson and Johnson invited Prof. Dr Marcus Chiu from the Hong Kong Baptist University to give an interactive workshop for potential tutors of the Family-to-Family psycho-education program, now known as the Family Link Education Program.
Janssen-Cilag invited about 100 potential tutors from all over Malaysia to attend the full-day workshop at the Crystal Crown Hotel in PJ. The participants included psychiatrists, doctors, social workers and more importantly carers (family members) of the mentally ill. Since then the Family Link Program, FLP in short, has spread throughout the length and breadth of our country and has proven to be an excellent means of education for the general public as well as the carers of the mentally ill.
For too long, mental disorders have remained shrouded with secrecy, shame and stigma and continue to be discriminated against. But through the FLP the family can now aid in recovery
(i) by getting early treatment for their ill relative,
(ii) by learning about the illness and how to deal with it,
(iii) by accepting the fact that the ill relative is mentally ill and
(iv) by reacting with sympathy instead of with anger.
Two psychiatrists from Penang , Dr Lau Kim Kah and Dr A. Bharathy were at the interactive workshop and they were so impressed with the objectives and usefulness of the 8-module course adapted by Prof Marcus from the 12 module course of NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) of USA that the following month they started the first course at the General Hospital Penang.
The first batch of about 30 participants included a few psychiatrists, a specialist doctor whose brother was mentally ill, a few hospital psychiatric nurses, social workers and carers who are relatives of the mentally ill. The tutors were all psychiatrists who shared their experiences of their clinical work with the mentally ill patients and their carers.
Since March 2004, Penang has already conducted courses in English, Malay and Chinese for more than 250 participants. Nationwide the total number of participants has exceeded 2000. The dropout rate for all the batches were very low and the general view of all who attended the modules was that it should have been introduced much earlier.
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