MOH: 60,000 subsidised outpatients treated for mental disorders each year

MOH noted that he five most common mental health conditions seen at public hospitals were schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and substance abuse. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — From 2016 to 2018, government healthcare providers treated an average of about 60,000 subsidised outpatients for mental disorders, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Monday (6 January).

In the same period, the average number of subsidised inpatients with mental health conditions was about 6,900 per year, with an average length of stay (ALOS) of 21 days per admission. The ministry noted that the five most common mental health conditions 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,” said MOH in response to written parliamentary queries from Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Walter Theseira.

“For the whole public healthcare system, the average age of subsidised patients for the different mental health conditions seen was between 40-50 years old.”

Associate Professor Theseira had asked, among other queries, about the demographics of patients receiving psychiatric treatment and mental health support, as well as manpower development plans for mental health and allied professionals

“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,” said MOH.

However, it cited the 2016 Singapore Mental Health Study, a self-reported survey which involved face-to-face interviews with a sample size of 6,126 participants.  

According to the study, 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.

MOH also revealed that there are currently about 248 psychiatrists and 473 psychologists in Singapore, which translates to 4.4 psychiatrists and 8.3 psychologists for every 100,000 people. Within the public health sector, the number of psychiatrists and psychologists increased by 8 per cent to 182 and 7 per cent to 171 respectively in the last three years.

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