A-Z

Guo - Interview 14

Age at interview: 72
Brief Outline: 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.
Background: Before he retired, Guo was a factory worker. Originally from Singapore, he has also lived in England, USA and Northern Ireland, where he lives now. He is divorced and has two sons. He became a carer in his late 30s. Ethnic background' Chinese.

More about me...

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 crowd” 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.

 

In the USA Gou could go to weekly meetings at the hospital and talk to health professionals about...

In the USA Gou could go to weekly meetings at the hospital and talk to health professionals about...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Over there, one thing good over there, we have, when he was in New Jersey, we have two meetings a week, on Tuesday, it's the parent and the patient, if I have a patient there, I will, -I can go in there and the patient and the parent, and there will be a head nurse or a psychiatrist or somebody there to organise the meeting. And my son can say anything to me and I can give a good, -and I can answer him back. Then a psychiatrist will say, -will tell my son he is wrong or I am wrong or something like that, you know. A friendly, -this thing. And to me, that is very, very helpful, because sometimes -you don't say things in anger, things go better. My son has his view, I have my view, or my son wants something, I will say, “I will try my best to do it”. And that is very helpful. And on Thursday night, seven to nine, it's only the parent meeting and the parent can voice the concern and every, -about the medication, can ask any question and can give all their views, which is, to me, is very helpful too, which we don't have it in this country. And to me, to me that was very good, because one Sunday I went to see my son in the hospital and my son says, “oh there's no toilet paper” and my son say, “the patient had to use their underwear to clean themselves”. So I was a little bit worked up, or something. I went to the office and here this woman, black woman, big black woman was sleeping on the chair. And I woke her up. I say, “excuse me, excuse me, there's no toilet paper in the toilet, and the patient need toilet paper”. And she looked at me, she says, “who do you think I am? A supply person?” And I was, was really very annoyed. I say, “you're lucky it's not my son otherwise I get a lawyer in”. I would get the newspaper in too. And one thing was good, I was able to bring the matter up at the next meeting. The person which chaired the meeting was surprised, and she said to me, “I'm glad you brought that up. We will look into the matter”. And next week she came back, she apologised, she says, “yes it did happen, and she made excuse for her. She has been working double shifts”. But I said “that's no excuse”, you know. And she says, “thank you, thank you for giving attention to the hospital. We'll make sure it won't happen again”. Because to me, all these meetings are important, because you can bring up what you see, you do not like, or you think is wrong.

 

Gou has been called racist names and told to 'go home' many times, but he avoids confrontation.

Text only
Read below

Gou has been called racist names and told to 'go home' many times, but he avoids confrontation.

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

In Northern Ireland, even in Northern, everywhere, everywhere you go, the same. “You don't like it, go home”. But then again, my answer is, it's not only for me, because there's a lot of Irish people are not well too, and they need to be, you know, concerned about this problem too. But then again for, it's very hard for minority to express their views, because any time a minority express their views, and even my ex wife said to me a couple of times, “if you don't like it, what are you doing here?” I say, “it's not only for me, it's, I turn a blind eye, it's not, it's for the good of everybody here too”. But they take it in a different way. Like I criticise the system and the National Health system is the best in the world, you say, where else you can get a National Health like that? And “you're running down the National Health”, like I'm running down the people that treat me. The idea was completely different from my ideas. I don't know, but six months after my second son, -I took him back here, because both my son always say to me, “they call me Chinky, they call me this, they”, I say, “don't worry”, I say, “I've been called names all over the world. Not only here. In America”, I said “prejudice in every race, not only the Irish, not only-“. The Chinese are prejudiced too. Every country. In America you see the Italian, the Italian will not like the British always. Or the German and all. It's common. Every country. Prejudice not only between the colour, between people, different, from different country. But that's why I keep seeing my son annoyed. I say, “if somebody call you name, just pretend you don't speak English, just laugh”. He has been called names. I just, “yeah, yeah, yeah”. I walk to shopping centre one day, one day somebody say, “which Chinese restaurant you work”? I didn't say nothing and he say to me, “chop chop, chop chop”. And I thought, -I just laughed. I say, “yeah, yeah, chop chop”. I mean, by making fun that way you avoid confrontation.

 

He thinks the police in the USA are better at helping families affected by mental health problems.

Text only
Read below

He thinks the police in the USA are better at helping families affected by mental health problems.

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
In America, where I come from, you can go to a police station and say to the police, sir, I have a son who has a mental problem, his name is so and so, his address is so and so. And in case you see him in the stall, or something like that, he needs medical treatment. And the police would take down everything. The minute something happen, poom, the police will get the ambulance, right into the hospital instead of jail. But you don't have that kind of system here. And the only, -another thing, the policemen are not trained to do all these things. Like my son, the policeman came, he was so rough on him, you know although he has mental problem. The police are not trained. The police don't know what is mental health. The police does not know how sick he is. But, to me, if you, if every community would work with the law enforcement, hand in hand, things might get better, you know. American, some towns, not all, some towns, to me, they are very, very good. I can go the police station, and say to police, see my son, he's mentally sick. And any trouble, send him to the hospital right away. But then again, here, you can't, you can't send them to hospital. You have to get your doctor. You've got to get psychiatrist. You've got the two policemen. You have to get nurses. You get all, six or seven people have to come before this thing. In America, -poom [claps hands], you go. They save a lot of trouble, you, -they will help the patient too.

 

Gou was unprepared when his two sons developed bi-polar disorder partly related to drug use.

Text only
Read below

Gou was unprepared when his two sons developed bi-polar disorder partly related to drug use.

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

I have two sons, both are bi-polar and have a bi-polar disorder. The first one happened when he was about 19 or 20, -then within, then the second one happened, he was only 16 and at first I do not understand what it is all about, because my first son always do something, and I would get annoyed and I would always think that he's lied to me. “You lie to me. You lie to me. Nothing wrong with him”. Until, until one day the police pick him up and put him in the hospital. Then I realised it was a psychiatry hospital, you know, for mental patients. So I said, “There's nothing wrong with my son, why is he there”? Then the psychiatrist, -make an appointment to see the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist told me my son has mental problem and, you know, I could not accept it because he was doing well in school. But his problem is the company he mixed up with. My first son, when he was about 16, he start going out with the wrong crowd and they used to have parties and all these things. Actually he was living with his mother. I only see him weekends. And every time I see him, you know, we always do something. Then when his mother threw him out, he came and lived with me. Then I realised all this happening, which was a shock to me. Then they told me he was on drugs, and I couldn't believe it and because I only see him once a week, Saturday, Friday night, Saturday night he goes, -or Sunday night he goes back to his mother. And I have a talk to his mother. His mother says it's common. Everybody in school is doing it. So when he was living with me, I move him from one school to another, he, every time he get suspended or he gets, you know, suspension and all this thing…

Then the problem is always go back to the same group of friends. Yes but then again that's not uncertain that- But then again, when they told me he's mentally ill and the psychiatrist say to me, “Partly due to drugs”. So at the beginning I can't believe it, you know. Then before you know, the second one was thrown out too, and they came to me, the second one came to me too. And he was no better, he was even worse, because he start to, he hear voices and he was saying things which I don't, I can't see. He was talking me about the spirit, the ghost, you know, somebody is following him and all these things. Before you know, he'll end up in the same, the same hospital. Then they told me it's very unusual for two brothers to be there. Then there's no answer.

 

When Guo approached his MP it was helpful to have the backing of his carer's organisation.

Text only
Read below

When Guo approached his MP it was helpful to have the backing of his carer's organisation.

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

I went in. She's not there. She's in London, at a meeting in London, no, a parliament in London. She says, “What's your problem?” And when I told her my problem, she says, “You know something? Every day somebody is trying to kill themselves. I've got people they're coming, cut themselves in front of me, and asking for help, and all this things”. She says, “It's terrible, nothing can be done.” So I was lucky the person who wrote the name of, everything, is on the carers letter there. And I show her the letter then. Then she looks, she says, “Oh, from the carers.” I say, “Yeah, I go to carers.” They told me to come here. Right away she took down the detail. Carer does help. You have some backing. You go yourself, nobody want to see you.

 

People fear violence and stay away when they hear Gou's sons have mental health problems.

Text only
Read below

People fear violence and stay away when they hear Gou's sons have mental health problems.

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Community? If anybody heard that you have a sick son, they don't want to know you. That's the worst part. People still have the idea that, that -I still hear people saying to me, saying to somebody, “You know, he has two sons, they are sick”. And when people hear that, they don't want their children to even come any nearer. Because they are afraid, you know, that your son might do something, or something. But then again, I don't blame them either, because, because they do not have enough knowledge that not all sick people are violent, not all sick people are, are bad. They have a life. To me, it's amazing' People tell me, in Northern Ireland, one in four is mentally depressed, or something like that. You walk in the shopping centre, you see four of them, you say, which one? Therefore it's, -because my two son has a lot of relatives here, must have 40, or 50 relatives here. Not one of them come near. Not one.

 

The CPN helped when Gou's son had trouble with the police.

Text only
Read below

The CPN helped when Gou's son had trouble with the police.

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

I feel more sorry for my two sons, now, because my elder son always says, “I want to change my name”. “I want to change my name, because every time I tell somebody my name, they call me a Chinko”. You see? I say, “it's OK”, I said, but when you're young you get angry. But to me, I'm so used to it, it's nothing any more. But then again, I feel so sorry for them. -I don't know, but then for my second son, walking down the street one day, somebody came and spit in his face. He turned around and hit him, and I think he got, -the police arrest him or something like that. And that night, a policeman came to the house and he said to me, “I want to see your son”. And I say,”yes, sit down”. And he asked my son, he says, “what's your name?” Samuel. And he looked at him. “What is your Chinese name”. “Samuel”. “No, I want your Chinese name”. And he was furious. And he got the pen and whatever, notebook or something. “I want your Chinese name, Chinese name”, he kept emphasising. So finally I say, “excuse me sir, excuse me sir, his mother is Irish. He doesn't have a Chinese name”. Then the next day, his CPN came. I told his CPN what happened, but his CPN is so good, his CPN said, “don't worry, don't worry, I'm going down to the police station with him and I explain everything to them”. And he sort out everything. -Even name you can have problems, you know! So just, -to me, this is so very hard.

 

In the USA Gou could go to weekly meetings at the hospital and talk to health professionals about...

In the USA Gou could go to weekly meetings at the hospital and talk to health professionals about...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Over there, one thing good over there, we have, when he was in New Jersey, we have two meetings a week, on Tuesday, it's the parent and the patient, if I have a patient there, I will, I can go in there and the patient and the parent, and there will be a head nurse or a psychiatrist or somebody there to organise the meeting. And my son can say anything to me and I can give a good, -and I can answer him back. Then a psychiatrist will say, will tell my son he is wrong or I am wrong or something like that, you know. A friendly, -this thing. And to me, that is very, very helpful, because sometimes -you don't say things in anger, things go better. My son has his view, I have my view, or my son wants something, I will say, “I will try my best to do it”. And that is very helpful. And on Thursday night, seven to nine, it's only the parent meeting and the parent can voice the concern and every, -about the medication, can ask any question and can give all their views, which is, to me, is very helpful too, which we don't have it in this country. And to me, to me that was very good, because one Sunday I went to see my son in the hospital and my son says, “oh there's no toilet paper” and my son say, “the patient had to use their underwear to clean themselves”. So I was a little bit worked up, or something. I went to the office and here this woman, black woman, big black woman was sleeping on the chair. And I woke her up. I say, “excuse me, excuse me, there's no toilet paper in the toilet, and the patient need toilet paper”. And she looked at me, she says, “who do you think I am? A supply person?” And I was, was really very annoyed. I say, “you're lucky it's not my son otherwise I get a lawyer in”. I would get the newspaper in too. And one thing was good, I was able to bring the matter up at the next meeting. The person which chaired the meeting was surprised, and she said to me, “I'm glad you brought that up. We will look into the matter”. And next week she came back, she apologised, she says, “yes it did happen, and she made excuse for her. She has been working double shifts”. But I said “that's no excuse”, you know. And she says, “thank you, thank you for giving attention to the hospital. We'll make sure it won't happen again”. Because to me, all these meetings are important, because you can bring up what you see, you do not like, or you think is wrong.

Previous Page
Next Page