Keeping an eye on the maid's mental state

PETALING JAYA - Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) reminds employers to be cautious when hiring foreign maids to ensure that they have been adequately trained in a bid to minimise the various risks and dangers.

A Penang maid agency association technical consultant told Sin Chew Daily legal foreign maids must go through at least 200 hours of training before they can be hired, including tests on their mental states and job competency. These maids must obtain job performance certificates before they are permitted to work in Malaysia.

She said mutual respect and trust between the maids and their employers are the most important factors for harmonious coexistence because they can only get to know each other better through proper communication.

She said, "I myself will treat my maid like my child. If she has done anything wrong, I'll tell her where she has done wrongly and the consequences of such a mistake."

She urged employers to talk to their maids and try to offer some consolation if they discover that their maids have become emotional or behave in an unusual manner, adding that squarely blaming the maids will not get the problems solved or improved but would instead make the matter worse, even causing the maids to suffer from depression.

Indecent behaviour

70-year-old Madam Tan from Penang has hired two maids before. The first Indonesian maid was hired to take care of her ill husband before he passed away three years ago.

Lately she hired another maid from Indonesia to handle domestic chores and for companionship as her age catches up and her children and grandchildren are seldom at home.

Initially the maid was working quite diligently but later Madam Tan found that the maid started to act weirdly, for example waking up about three or four o'clock in the morning to wash the floor outside the house, humming some Indon songs occasionally as she worked.

Madam Tam found this unbecoming and after observing the maid for several mornings, she came to realise that the maid had woke up early just to meet a Bangladeshi worker clearing the garbage during the predawn hours.

She terminated the service of the maid after seeing with her own eyes two different Bangladeshi men going into her room.

A part of family

Madam Lim has been hiring the maid from Lombok island, Indonesia for 11 years now.

After staying with her for some time, the maid learned to handle the domestic chores rather efficiently and was even able to cook some home dishes to share with Lim and her family.

Today, Surya has become a part of the family. Although her employment contract expired seven years ago, Lim still keeps her until this day.

"Surya has become so much used to the life here and her family in Lombok has never hastened her to go back and marry."

Meanwhile, Coco Lee has hired quite a number of foreign maids over the last 20 years, and she would start by observing the mental state of a newly arriving maid.

"It's normal to feel worried when hiring a new maid, and I would send the maids back the moment I discovered that they had emotional or other problems.

"As the employer, I need to teach the maids how to do the house chores. Normally they help clean up the house, cook the meals and do the laundry. Since the children have already grown up, the maids no longer need to take care of them.":

Lee said she would occasionally crack some jokes with the maids but when it comes to the time to get serious, she could be very strict.

Close observation

A psychology specialist told Sin Chew Daily an employer can sometimes notice from the eye gestures and body language whether a maid is suffering from any mental or psychological disorder.

"People suffering from depression normally have drooping eye corners and lips besides wrinkles on their foreheads. They usually do not bother too much about their hair or how they dress.

"As for schizophrenia patients, they often show exaggerated body language and would murmur to themselves things that don't quite make sense."

He said people suffering from depression and schizophrenia are sometimes restless and would walk about aimlessly inside the house.

"If a person sits very still in an unusual manner, we must be vigilant as they could have violent inclinations.

"The employers can also judge from the maids' day-to-day habits such as appetite and sleep patterns whether they are suffering from any mental or psychological problem.

"Such people normally do not have enough sleep and would wake up in the middle of the night walking around the house. They may also have suppressed appetite."

He urged employers to exercise additional caution if their maids frequently complain to them they are not feeling well.