Plagued by depressive psychosis, Mr Parthiban Arumugam, 47, had been in and out of prison at least five times, the latest in 2009. But when he landed in court again in 2013, he got help to stay out of trouble.
Instead of a jail term, Mr Parthiban was granted a mandatory treatment order (MTO), which allowed him to attend compulsory counselling and receive mental treatment in lieu of jail time. "It was a sigh of relief when I heard that I got an MTO. It gave me a second chance. More importantly it allowed me to continue working to support my mother," said Mr Parthiban, now a driver with halfway house Helping Hands.
He had been hauled to court for threatening another man with a knife. But Mr Parthiban, who was diagnosed with depressive psychosis in his late 30s, said he does not remember the incident, a side effect of his mental illness. He said his condition also causes him to hear voices and sometimes imagine that someone is tapping him on the shoulder.
His previous convictions happened before MTOs were introduced in 2010. But the 2013 altercation set him on the right path. Over a year, he paid monthly visits to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), where he would meet his case worker and collect medication.
IMH case worker Felicia Hoo, 29, said Mr Parthiban was consistent in taking medication and no longer drinks alcohol, which has landed him in trouble before. Mr Parthiban also found comfort in caring for a stray cat, which kept him occupied and his mind focused.
He still continues to attend regular counselling sessions with a Helping Hands counsellor. Ms Hoo added: "Parthiban is now a more positive and hopeful person. "Now he's even thinking of volunteering at IMH, to provide support for other patients like him," said Ms Hoo.
Tan Tam Mei