PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 April, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 April, 1994, 12:00am

THERE'S more to the situation at Laguna City than a case of misinformed, fearful residents.

Although no one who respects human rights could ever condone the activities that only harass the outpatients (taking photographs of them, putting up alarming banners), the fears of the residents are not entirely unfounded. It is their protests that are misdirected.

In the South China Morning Post, of April 5, there was yet another story of violence perpetrated by a ''person with a history of mental illness''. (''Woman hurls son from flat''). I see these, and so do all other readers, time and time again.

The thing is, if the Social Welfare Department really had a handle on how to treat such cases, there would be no question of public safety. Western medicine's institutional psychiatry (which is practised in Hong Kong) has a long way to go before patients are not at risk of worsening due to treatment.

The psychotropic drugs often prescribed, electroshock treatment, etc, have serious side effects. Additionally, patients are often told they are cured and released without actually being cured of anything. This means there are serious flaws in psychiatric diagnosis. This, then, is something worth protesting about.

Mental patients or ex-mental patients, or whatever one wants to call these citizens, deserve all the civil rights granted us by law, and certainly protection against unfair treatment whether from professionals or from fellow citizens.

RENEE THORPE Discovery Bay