Demographics of patients receiving psychiatric treatment and mental health support at IMH, polyclinics, specialist outpatient clinics and government-funded programmes

Anthea Indira Ong
4 min readJan 7, 2020

Parliamentary Question, 6 Jan 2020

Through Assoc Prof Walter Theseira, we asked the Minister for Health in the last three years, what are the demographics of patients receiving psychiatric treatment and mental health support at the Institute of Mental Health, polyclinics, Specialist Outpatient Clinics at restructured hospitals and under Government-funded programmes such as the Assessment and Shared Care Team (ASCAT), Community Resource Engagement and Support Team (CREST) and Community Intervention Team (COMIT), respectively, broken down by (i) number of patients (ii) duration of inpatient stay or treatment length (iii) types of mental health condition (iv) age (v) income and (vi) time taken between onset of symptoms and treatment.

Mr Gan Kim Yong: The five most common mental health conditions that were seen at public hospitals were Schizophrenia, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar disorder and Substance Abuse. At the polyclinics, Depression, Anxiety and Insomnia were the three most common mental health conditions. Schizophrenia and Depression were also common mental health conditions receiving service from the community intervention teams funded under MOH.

For the whole public healthcare system, the average age of subsidised patients for the different mental health conditions seen was between 40 to 50 years old[1] . MOH does not track data on income nor time taken between onset of symptoms and treatment as the patient might have seen providers outside the public healthcare system. However, based on the Singapore Mental Health Study (2016)[2] , a self-reported survey, the median time taken between the onset of symptoms and seeking help is 11 years for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD); four years for bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse, two years for Generalised Anxiety Disorder and one year for Major Depressive Disorder. Stigma and lack of mental health literacy may be contributory factors to the delay.

There are various initiatives by the Government, as well as healthcare and community providers to proactively reach out to raise awareness of mental conditions and provide information on avenues to seek help, facilitate early identification and access to interventions. We have community outreach teams to educate the public on mental health conditions and dementia, and refer those with such conditions to the appropriate health and/ or social services. We have also increased access to mental health and or dementia services in 12 polyclinics.

Over the last three years (2016 to 2018), the average number of subsidised patients who received inpatient treatment for mental health conditions was about 6,900 per year, with an average length of stay (ALOS) of 21 days per admission. The average number of subsidised patients seen as outpatients for mental disorders was about 60,000 per year.

MOH will continue to work with public hospitals and service providers in the community, including schools, social service agencies and family service centres, to provide holistic support for all persons with mental healthcare needs and to ensure timely access to quality care and support.

Note(s) to Question No(s) 13:

[1]Source: Ministry of Health.

[2]The study involved face-to-face interviews with a sample size of 6,126 participants from 15,900 randomly-selected residents.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

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