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IMH study shows 1 in every 7 residents of Singapore experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime; more than 75% interviewed had not sought proper medical help

The Institute of Mental Health, Singapore had just released the findings of its Second Mental Health Study (SMHS) and based on its results, 1 in every 7 residents of Singapore has experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime.

The nationwide study had begun in 2016 and was based on a sample size of about 6,126 participants selected from 15,900 random residents.

Called the Second Mental Health Study (SMHS), it is a national collaboration between the Institute of Mental Health, Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Nanyang Technological Institute (NTU) with funding provided by Temasek Foundation Innovates and the Ministry of Health (MOH). The main objective of the study is to establish a prevalence of some forms of mental disorders among the Singapore resident population aged 18 years old and above. SMHS also seeks to learn the change in the landscape of mental health since its first study back in 2010.

The main areas of study was centred on the common mental disorders such as mood disorders (major depressive disorders and bipolar disorders), anxiety disorders (obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder) and alcohol abuse disorder.

The second study had found that the top 3 mental disorders affecting the Singapore resident population were major depressive disorder (MDD), alcohol abuse and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). And of the 3 mental disorders, MDD affected 1 in every 16 Singapore residents, with alcohol abuse and OCD trailing with 1 in 24 and 1 in 28 residents.

Factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, income status, education and employment affected the prevalence of these mental disorders on the Singapore population.

But the alarming matter was how more than 75% of the residents interviewed had not sought proper medical help to deal with the mental disorders they were going through.

And that compared to the first study that was conducted 6 years ago in 2010 which found a 12% lifetime prevalence of mental illness, it had increased to 13.9% in the second study. Most significant was the increase in general anxiety disorder (GAD) and alcohol abuse.

A nationwide health study such as this is a most helpful tool for the Singapore government and general public to deal with the overall mental health of its population.

Leading experts who had conducted the study such as Dr Mythily Subramaniam, Director, Research Division, IMH and Associate Professor, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine hope that the situation will improve with residents who experience mental disorders seeking proper professional and medical help as quickly as possible.

Mental health disorder, like any other health disorder, warrants a check-up with a doctor or any other qualified experts to remedy the problem.

Although the study has brought up pressing mental issues affecting Singapore, problems of stress and depression among its student population were not mentioned. This would include suicidal tendencies and in particular suicide among young children of school-going age. The sad incidents of children taking their own lives should be a matter of grave and national focus. As a developed nation, Singapore residents are well known to be very efficient at their professions. This may in turn impose a certain amount of stress on its citizens.

According to the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), a suicide prevention centre, suicide accounted for 361 lives lost in 2017. This figure meant that there were 2.5 times more deaths caused by suicide than by transport accidents in Singapore back in 2017.

The year before that saw 22 young children taking their own lives. Their ages ranged from 10 to 19. The latest suicide case involving a minor in 2018 was an 11-year-old boy who jumped from his 17th floor bedroom window. It was the first time in his life that he had failed in his exams and suicide was his chosen approach to his assumed failure.

Cases of young students, even those of primary school age attempting or contemplating suicide is a bright red-flag for any country. And for a country with a smaller population like Singapore, harder to ignore.

The same suicide prevention centre also reported that the number of children seeking mental health help is steadily rising, both a good and worrying trend. It is a positive sign that parents are becoming more aware of their children’s mental health but alarming in the sense that childhood has now become wrought with stress, anxiety and depressive situations.

Apart from suicidal tendencies, gambling addiction is another mental disorder that has dire consequences. Like drinking, gambling has terrible potential in damaging a person’s life as well as their families’. The National Addiction Management Service (NAMS) that runs the nation’s largest national addiction treatment centre has seen a great increase in people seeking help for gambling addiction.

And over at the Institute of Mental Health, gamblers formed the largest number of addicts undergoing help for addiction. While its symptoms are harder to spot, gambling is just as destructive as other addictions such as alcohol abuse and substance abuse.

It would give way to many social ills such as illegal money-lending, petty crimes and break-down of family units. Inevitably  suicide would also be an issue when gambling habits left unchecked leads to impossible amounts of debts incurred.

With the proper and substantiated information and knowledge, the government would be able to make a better and more effective decision on how best to deal with the problems plaguing its population. The most effective solutions are often derived from comprehensive research and studies along with expert discussions.