More mental illness patients now seeking treatment

National 2 minutes, 35 seconds


MORE individuals suffering from mental illness are now coming forward on a voluntary basis, thanks to increased awareness and the breaking down stigma surrounding the illness.

Speaking to The Brunei Times recently, Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain Hj Hanafi, said the ministry has been pushing awareness on mental healthcare and health officials overseeing mental healthcare have been making a lot of strides and progress.

The ministry’s approach is to see what is the best way we can help someone with a mental illness, by treating them medically or through the mode of psychotherapy, among others, he said.

Nevertheless, the minister stressed that awareness among the community and public still needs to be heightened.

“We want to make sure that people do not make fun of individuals with mental illnesses, but are rather sensitive to it,” he said.

“If you have a certain mental illness, the ministry of health will be supportive,’’ YB Dato Hj Zulkarnain added.

The ministry’s Deputy Permanent Secretary (Professional) Dr Hjh Maslina Hj Mohsin said several community psychiatric clinics are available in Brunei, and these have been established for about 10 years now.

She said for patients who do not feel comfortable going to the hospital, these psychiatric community clinics are available to them.

The ministry has also initiated providing a home environment for patients with mental illnesses who have been living in the hospital ward for a long time.

These patients have been relocated to respective male and female bungalows, Dr Hjh Maslina said.

“At the homes, we assist them with their daily lives so they are not (in a warded environment). This is more of a rehabilitation type of therapy, where they learn how to cook and carry out daily activities,” she said, adding this was the progress made in mental health here.

The health minister said the message is to “deinstitutionalise” people with mental illnesses.

“The community has to accept that it is alright to have them among us,” he said, adding more awareness has to be raised.

YB Dato Dr Hj Zulkarnain also said that the ministry has highly trained psychiatric nurses who are valuable in terms of their expertise and are part of the counselling management of cases.

The minister said they have quite a number of clinical psychologists, but noted that more are needed.

YB Dato Dr Zulkarnain said the ministry has been very upfront about mental healthcare over the past few years.

“We want to make people aware that it is also an illness. We do not want people to be stigmatised but rather dismiss these stigmas, so much so we came up with a Mental Health Order which replaced the Lunacy Act.”

According to a previous report, the Mental Health Order was introduced in November 2014, replacing the nearly century-old Lunacy Act.

The report said the new law will bring in sweeping changes to mental healthcare in the country as comprehensive guidelines are in place to address treatment, which covers the admission of patients to hospital, initial treatment and rehabilitation as well as integration into society.

The Brunei Times