Guo has been caring for two sons with bi-polar disorder for over twenty years. He doesn’t think the current services meet the needs of people with mental health problems.
Originally from Singapore, Guo (72) has lived both in England and the USA, and he now lives in Northern Ireland. Two of Guo’s sons, now adults, have had bi-polar disorder since their late teens, and caring for them has been at the core of Guo’s life for over 25 years.
Guo married and had children in Northern Ireland. While living in the USA, Guo and his wife split up, and the children were living with their mother. At different times both his two sons got involved with the wrong crow and started using drugs. Their drug use lead to trouble with the police, and it was via the criminal justice system that their mental health problems were detected. Guo describes how he spent all his spare time and resources driving from his home to visit his son in prison or hospital, some 200 kilometres away.
At one point the youngest son, during psychosis, robbed a pharmacy. He received a seven year prison sentence, most of which was served in hospital. In 1988, he was released. When it looked like he was going to go back to his old life, Guo decided to bring his son back to Northern Ireland, where his mother and brother were.
Ever since, Guo has continued to do what he can to support his sons. He finds it hard to get the help they need. He has experienced to be told to ‘go back home’ if he is critical to the way things are done in this country, and he finds it is sometimes difficult to communicate with health professionals. Having experienced the services available in the USA, he believes the system here is not organised in a way that maximises carers input. Also, he doesn’t think the system is equipped to help people with mental health problems, particularly when it comes to hospital beds and access to consultants time. Guo recently started to use the services of a carers organisation, and he says their backing has been very helpful.