SCOTT WAIDE | Tingting Bilong Kantri Blog
MY JOURNEY HAS TAKEN ME to strange and wonderful places and I keep meeting interesting people. In 2003, I met Chris. In front of Garden City, we had a lively conversation about outboard motors and the kind of fuel they use. I am not too sure how that conversation began. But I introduced myself and he did the same.
Over the next five years, Chris’ mental state deteriorated. He was rejected by his family. On one occasion, I met him in Boroko with his arm in a sling. For me it was upsetting to see him in the state he was. His shoulder was dislocated. I asked him how he was, and he told me how members of his family had assaulted him and how people on his street called him “longlong” and joined in the assault.
We went into a shop and found some medicine and some food. The level of discrimination he faced in the shop was unbelievable. The security guard wanted him to wait outside. I explained: “No. He is with me. We’re here to buy medicine.” Then I got annoyed with the salesperson who was trying to get my attention to tell me that the person I was with was “longlong.”
Chris has seen some of the worst sorts of behaviour that human beings can exhibit. He has been publicly humiliated so many times because many people think tha,t because he appears mentally incapacitated, he can’t think for himself or can’t understand that he is being discriminated against. Nearly everyone who passes by talks down to him or abuses him in some way just because they can.
Looks can be very deceiving. Chris studied Communication Arts at Divine Word University. For a short while he worked with the Religious Television Association. He has had a few problems along the way. However, he is an avid reader of books and newspapers and speaks flawless English. He knows about corruption and he knows about current happenings in politics.
He suffers from schizophrenia - a condition that was diagnosed by a senior Papua New Guinean mental health specialist.
Every conversation with Chris is heart-warming. He doesn’t complain about his difficulties but always says he’s trying to do something to look after himself. He always wishes the best for his friends. In every conversation with me, he always says “pass my greetings to your wife and children”. He still remembers my kids from the first time I introduced them when they were little.
Today after a long conversation, I asked permission to take his picture for this short story. He said: “Bro, please write about me. Tell my story.”
Just before leaving, we shook hands and I said: “Chris look after yourself.”
And in true Chris style, he stretched out his arms in a comical gesture and said: “Yes, I will! I will not protest in public. I’ve been stigmatized enough.”
I tell this story to draw attention to the state of mental health care in Papua New Guinea where we have only one psychiatric hospital and less than 10 mental health specialists.
The situation is so serious that brave intelligent people like Chris can’t get help and their conditions are allowed to deteriorate to a point where they are truly mentally incapacitated.