Across the overhead bridge and around a low wall of plants and bushes, there is a small gate the leads to the Mental Institute of Singapore. My dog always gets a little jittery when we near the place and would refuse to enter the gate. Standing in defiance for a long time, he finally gave in to our persistent yanking and of course a small treat from us.
The mental institute has several buildings that are situated in the middle of a park with lush greenery surrounding it, acting somewhat as a barrier to or from the ‘outside world’. Perhaps it is to protect its inhabitants or maybe it was to hide the place that reflects the mental health of this country. Whatever the case is, it provided a tranquil place to walk my dog.
However, it wasn’t exactly a serene place for my dog…
Two layers of 3-metre tall steel fences stood unwieldy, separating the older mental patients from us. (My dog always increases his reluctance when we walk past here.) The fences seemed restrictive as it bars them from the world but it is also this infrastructure that allows them a glimpse of their surroundings. I wondered if they ever thought that they are the ones with the freedom and we are actually those entrapped by these fences. I think we are all trapped in our own double-layered steel fences and we decide what these fences are representative of.
I believe my dog saw through all these various fences that human put around themselves. That behind these fences, we actually have a very fragile mental state. But it’s also these fences that perhaps help keep our mental states in order.
I think dogs possess the ability to discern a humans’ mental stability. It understood what is normal and what is not. They might actually understand the mental health of humans better than we do. Although they do no possess the rationality that humans do, I somehow believe that it is precisely so that dogs rely so much on emotions, they are able to somewhat access the mental stability of humans.
Or perhaps the amount of signs showing the mental instability in this place is too glaring to not make such discernment. The number of buildings, workers and the amount of cries and screams were already a reflection of the growing mental health problems this country faces. A worrying question pops into my mind, is our society mentally healthy?
Sometimes, these thoughts make me feel that the nature of this tranquillity the park has, is an uneasy and unnerving one.