There's not much support in Turkey for people with mental health problems or learning disabilities. This was the field I worked in before I moved to Turkey and it's something I feel passionately about.
I have mentioned briefly about the woman who lives in the house just below us. She has learning disabilities as far as I can establish...although the Turks will just attach the label "she has a mental problem". People in the village are kind, they give things to this woman and her husband. When she was sick last year, two neighbours went in and washed her thoroughly, with hot water that we provided.
When my FIL was here recently we had a discussion about this woman and mental health/learning disabilities in general. He has a typical Turkish attitude. He is a good muslim, he gives to those less fortunate than him, and just assumes that people like this woman, don't actually understand anything, so everyone must help. I did try to explain that just helping...ie just giving things..although kind, doesn't actually achieve much in enabling this woman to have the best possible life that she can. That it would be better for people to spend time teaching her how to wash herself and her clothes, how to shop for food, how to cook, how to keep her house and garden clean. FIL's response was that she doesn't understand because she has a mental problem.
That's rubbish...I know she understands. I don't communicate with her as much as others do but I am well aware from her body language and her behaviour, that she understands more than people give her credit for.
FIL didn't believe me...even though he knows this is my area of expertise...so we agreed to disagree.
I found myself having a similar conversation last night with Mr A. Unfortunately he shares some of his father's opinions on the subject. But to be fair he did listen to what I had to say. I tried to explain that it's so important for these people to be treated as human beings, and that we shouldn't just be GIVING and DOING but that we should be ENABLING. This is the only way that this woman and others like her will ever gain self respect and achieve a better way of life.
At the moment this woman and her husband live in absolute squalor. They never wash themselves or their clothes. They don't clean their house or garden. They don't cook. The rubbish piles up, causing a health hazard to them and others around them...until it reaches a point where a neighbour will just go in and light a bonfire to burn it all. Their toilet is just a pile of bricks in a semi-circle in their garden where they squat and do their business. Although to be honest the woman would often just come out of her house and squat in front of it. No-one has bothered to explain to her that this is not acceptable...until Mr A noticed one day last year. He told her that it was wrong. He said that if her husband would build up their "outside toilet" with more bricks he would give them wood to put on the top to make a roof...which he did. I've not seen her squat just outside the house since....so she DOES understand!
I would like to do more, but because I'm a foreigner and she is wary of me, she won't listen to me when I try to talk to her. The only conversation we have is when I walk down the hill and she shouts out "where are you going?"...I tell her...but any attempts at further conversation and she scurries away.
Last night I did feel a bit like I was wasting my time talking to Mr A about what could be done to enable this woman to achieve more. So imagine my surprise this morning to find him out in the garden talking to her over the wall. He was telling her how to tidy up and clean her garden. He was very patient with her and repeated himself many times, but finally she got the message, and has been spending the past hour or so having a good sort out! A bit later I heard him talking to our neighbour Şevke, and saying wouldn't it be nice if she and some of the other women could take some time to teach the woman how to wash and to cook. I'm hoping that they will although you can't force people to do something that seems alien to them.
You know how much I love the Turks. They are kind and generous people...they have good hearts. They will do anything for anyone. They just don't have the knowledge or experience to deal effectively with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
It's difficult to change attitudes. It takes time. But if we can enable just one person to become independent it has to be worth the effort.