Mr Ang Beng Hui, 39, was attending kindergarten when his mother’s first bout of aggressive behaviour triggered by schizophrenia occurred. Concerned for his children’s safety, Beng Hui’s father arranged for Beng Hui and his two younger sisters to be brought up by their paternal grandparents.

At the age of 14, Beng Hui’s father started to prepare his son to assume the role of primary caregiver. He did so by learning from his father and reading widely on schizophrenia. Beng Hui became his mother’s sole caregiver after his father’s passing in 2014. His two younger sisters, who have their own families, contribute by providing financial support as they have difficulties handling Mrs Ang’s challenging behaviour.

Beng Hui matured faster than most teenagers, balancing studies while caring for his mother. He fastidiously ensured she never missed her doctor’s appointments and took the prescribed medications regularly. Drawing support from nurses, doctors and social workers at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Beng Hui has become Mrs Ang’s protector. When neighbours reported her to the police for aggressive behaviour, he explained her condition to them and the police, taking the opportunity to educate them on mental illness.

Today, Beng Hui is an active participant in caregiver-related workshops at IMH focusing on mental health issues. He hopes the public would understand that one’s mental condition may trigger difficult behaviour in persons with mental illness, but that this may not be so if the mental illness is well managed. When discussing long-term plans with IMH for Mrs Ang in 2013, despite nursing home placement being proposed as an option, Beng Hui chose to keep his mother at home. He engaged a domestic helper and gradually imparted his knowledge and skills to her, so she would be able to manage Mrs Ang’s behaviour.