MoH sees improved psychiatric diagnosis

National 2 minutes, 7 seconds


DIAGNOSIS for mental disorders has significantly improved among those who were legally detained since the Mental Health Order 2014 came into force, according to recent audits by the Ministry of Health (MoH).

With the Order now requiring any legally-binding detention to incorporate a medical practitioner’s assessment, Head of MoH’s Psychiatry Department Dr Hilda Ho said detention for those suspected of mental illness has become “much more accurate”.

“Our most recent audits show that more than 98 per cent of those detained under the new Order have been successfully diagnosed,” she said at MoH’s Mind Your Mind campaign at Sentral Shopping Centre last weekend.

This is in stark contrast to poorer diagnosis rates for those detained under the previous legal framework, the 1929 Lunacy Act – which required only a family member or guardian to request to the court for a patient to receive mental health treatment.

Applications for detention under the abolished law were often made without a doctor’s examination, and when granted by the court lasted 10 days, said Dr Ho.

“Previously there were cases forwarded to us where the patient wasn’t mentally ill, but rather had a falling out or fight with other family members,” she added.

The previous 10-day ruling, once granted, could not be cancelled, she added, meaning those detained but later certified to be without any mental disorders by doctors are still required to serve out the remainder of their 10 days.

Under the Mental Health Order that was enforced on November 1, 2014, detention has now been revised to 72 hours, which can be cancelled at any time upon doctor’s orders.

“In practice, (the 72-hour detention period) has worked well and made things much more efficient for us. If the doctor at any point sees no reason to keep the patient, they can go home,” she said.

About 200 patients are admitted each year across the country for treatment of suspected mental disorders.

The number of people registered in psychiatry and psychology services is in the region of 14,000.

The head psychiatrist went on to say that in some quarters, there was a fear that the new provisions under the Order would lead to doctors arbitrarily requesting to detain patients.

However detention rates have remained the same under the new Order, but with a higher diagnosis rate suggesting that detection has become more efficient.

“There were some who were worried and had concerns, ourselves included, that doctors would just simply detain people. But our review shows that isn’t the case as the rates have remained almost the same,” she said.

The Brunei Times