Asia Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan - in a mental health hospital

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Years ago I met an English man called Jim Read. He is an ex-user of the mental health system who works as an "expert" in this field recently. A really very friendly and nice guy. In one of his articles, he mentioned that he had been visited several hospitals and institutions. Among them, his favourite was a small, hidden place in Romania, in the mountains where he was just watching a football match together with the patients and with the son of the psychiatrist without being bothered by the nurses. Without someone switching off the TV in a certain moment.
He said that spite of the fact he didnt speak Romanian, he felt himself much better there then in any acute wards in the rich UK.

Travelling to a lot of places and seeing several facilities in this field, I always try to find out what is the clue of the atmosphere of a place. How come, a hidden yet most likely very poorly equipped mental health hospital is friendlier than a supermodern, professional "abteilung" in South-Germany. When there are 40-50 people closed together...lets say, like 10 staff and 40 patients. What makes most of these places being a hell, looking like a hell,.................. or looking like a golden cage and being in a hell?

Mental Health Hospital Bishkek - Kyrgyzstan

When I asked my questions in Kyrgyzstan about the local psychiatry, the first answers were almost all about the money. Lack of sources.

But in fact I dont think its about money. I am not totally sure, but I think recently that its more about us. The way we are with each other. Maybe this field...the "mental health" (ohh what a hypocrite combination!) made me feel such a residence any time I hear the word professional. Because when they say professionals I usually rather see prison guards, or which is worse, abusers in the name of "something" (law, code, society, your wellness, right, God ...catch yours). And in a way a jail is a more honest place...because there is not a cover story saying: we are about to help people.

Mental Health Hospital Bishkek - Kyrgyzstan

I had some meetings in Kyrgyzstan with people who are considered as patients in the mental health system...

I met Oleg in Bishkek. He was laying in his dirty bed as a Roman Emperor in that position of half sitting and half laying. He was yelling to his grandfather giving orders to him, requesting medication or mineral water. The medication for his headache was not good enough in one piece, so after a next short order to the old, unshaven man, he turned back to grind it.

Oleg didnt pay too much attention to me at first. Misha the psychiatrist introduced me, hearing my name he pulled up his eyebrows. The Zsolt sounded weird to him so we made a compromise to call me Zhora. I felt there like Marco Polo might feel himself at the court of the great khan. I nodded sacrificing my name for the good relationship. Tanya the other psychiatrist got worse. Oleg found her not attractive enough in her new eyesglasses. He said:

- You have lost a lot of weight, its good, you are more feminine like this, but it would be better without the glasses!

Tanya couldnt decide suddenly if she wanna be a woman or a psychiatrist in that moment, then later she took off the glasses.

And Oleg was still sitting there as an emperor. His room was full of plastic tanks and military airplanes. I asked if he made them. He puffed away the cigarette smoke and answered only after a while:

- I dont know..they just got here.

And continued smoking. Asked me back if I have ever been a soldier. I said yes, I was a border guard. At this point he sat up and asked every details about it. Where, when, which division and after listening carefully to my answer, he made a conclusion:

- Its been a special force, man! You should fight with my friend, he is a tall guy, too. I am short, I even dont have the courage to go out, because of the headache.

Oleg wanted to quit smoking, so he put small black pills into his mouth (15-20 at once) keeping them under his tongue and during our conversation, he spitted them one by one into an empty plastic bottle of Coke-Light.

Crossing the whole city, we visited Seryozha and his family. His mother opened the gate, starting to tell the recent stories immediately in Russian, trying to deliver the confidential parts before we reached the kitchen where Seryozha was sitting. He had old fashioned training trousers and a nicely ironed shirt. He was reading a book. I sat diagonally in front of him and after a short introduction, I asked:

- Chto ti chitaesh? (what are you reading?)

Seryozha is the guy who never look into your eyes. Maybe looking towards you...this is the most you can get from him. But even in these moments, you have the feeling that he is not looking at you but focusing right beside your eyes. He was quiet, talking with short words and when he was standing, he made strange monotone movements like a slow indian rain-dance. We couldnt talk for long because his mother started her report again. Once she started to talk, her son pretended to read, murmuring something and started to swing in his chair. Right until his mom stopped. When she finished, he also finished murmuring...when she starts, he starts again.

I couldnt bear more to listen to her mom. Ignoring her speach, I turned to Seryozha. We checked his room where he kept a painting of a white horse in front of the beautiful Kyrgyz mountains. A horse with beautiful large eyes...like a woman.


We played puzzle. Its a cartoon figure. Seryozha is 23 but he considered himself 15. He is "dancing" and murmuring more but when we leave, he is coming with us until the gate. It was hard to leave.

Kolja is a decent young gentleman living in a Kyrgyz blockhouse. When we arrive, he introduce himself in English appologizing for the "post-soviet" circumstances in the apartment. He is collecting old cheap tabloids. While he is sorting them, he keeps talking about her girlfriend Jennifer Lopez and he mention that he would like to leave this country a lot. I asked if he wouldnt miss these beautiful Kyrgyz ladies all around? He said just for the Kyrgyz girls he would stay but he has to leave because KGB want to kill him.

His older sister is sitting right next to him making faces. It seems, she is fed up with Kolja and with all of his nonsense. Kolja is not stupid, realizes this and they have a short quarel. I dont understand in Russian but its something like: "Why cant I say what I want?" Their father is sitting on the bed with tired, motionless face. Without any words. Liliya his doctor is checking his eyes because he has some problems with it. Meanwhile Kolja is giving us some magazines. Looking at them, I saw that some articles are signed with pen, he made short notes. We were sitting there in Kyrgyzstan, in a blockhouse looking into the colourful magical world of the magazines. He talked about an article with some pictures of Machu Pichu and I felt like he is rather there. In another reality, Jennifer Lopez is his girlfriend.

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