Post by Joe Cardomone

Ever since entering this mystical country, I find myself looking at who I am as though I am a distant bystander observing another person. As an observer looking in, I see a foreigner. I do not fully understand any of the languages or the customs or the ritual behaviors of the Thai people yet. I have learned what they are…but I do not UNDERSTAND them. I am a boy who is completely lost in a place where it is so wonderful to be lost. Our experience thus far has primarily been in the city of Chiang Mai. Viewing myself in this bustling city where western and eastern culture meet in a very explosive way is entertaining to say the least. I have struggled with the idea of bargaining at markets. I have pointed to things and used what feels like futile hand gestures to demonstrate a point in the face of a HUGE language barrier. I have put food in my mouth I never could have imagined I would. Plus, the smells– they are so strong and confusing. I get disoriented just thinking about all of this and the rest of my experiences on the other side of the world.

My favorite educational aspect of this trip as of now has been the mental health lecture at a Psychiatric hospital facility in Chiang Mai. We learned about the approach psychologists in the institution take to treat mental illness, what avenues they use for financing and supporting the endeavors, and how mental health is perceived in Thai society in general. The fascinating thing about the Thai perception of mental health treatment is that psychologists create many opportunities within the setting for their patients to establish a community and perform duties that make them feel like they are contributing members of society. In other words, they give patients the freedom to grow and learn and the confidence to believe that they can and will recover within the walls of the facility. Everything from gardening to sewing to playing music is utilized. The treatment plan itself is excellent. The real problem is getting patients to that point. We learned from the lecture that Thai society seems to have a problem understanding the existence and gravity of the situation with mental health. We discussed that this may be because Thai people are so open and accepting of so many lifestyles… they do not perceive mental illness as a problem, but rather “another way of living.” The presenters at this lecture were both very engaging and spoke excellent English, so I enjoyed it very much.

I will continue to post further on some of the highlights of the trip, what I am learning in the form of families and the health care system in Thailand, as well as the current status on my personal growth.

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