Friends, family and community essential for care of mental health patients, says Gan

A nurse helping an elderly patient at Institute of Mental Health. When it comes to identifying and taking care of mental health patients, everyone- from friends and family, to grassroots workers and general practitioners - must play a part, says Heal
A nurse helping an elderly patient at Institute of Mental Health. When it comes to identifying and taking care of mental health patients, everyone- from friends and family, to grassroots workers and general practitioners - must play a part, says Health Minister Gan Kim Yong. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - When it comes to identifying and taking care of mental health patients, everyone- from friends and family, to grassroots workers and general practitioners - must play a part, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Friday.

"Family, friends and neighbours are closest to those who may have early signs of mental issues, they are the first to notice early signs such as a change in behaviour or thinking before mental illness becomes more severe," he noted.

"They are in the best position to pick up signs and promote early treatment," he said, speaking at the opening of the Singapore Mental Health Conference.

Patients who are just discharged from hospital need the support of their family, friends and the community, in order to reintegrate into society and regain control of their daily functions and routines, he added.

"Nothing can replace the understanding, acceptance and patience of people you meet and interact with on a daily basis."

The Agency for Integrated Care, the Institute of Mental Health and community partners have also been working closely to form local community support networks that help identify the care needs in the neighbourhood and refer residents to appropriate services.

Senior activity, day care and family service centres can also play a part in promoting public awareness on mental wellness programmes.

Aside from the community, general practitioners - often the first healthcare people seniors go to when they fall sick- play an important role too. The Ministry of Health is committed to training and supporting more GPs to care for patients with mental illness in their neighbourhoods, said Mr Gan.

At this year's two-day conference, some 500 healthcare and community workers will attend talks surrounding the theme "Mental Health and Resilience: It Takes A Whole Community".

Deputy Chief Executive Officer of National Council of Social Service Tina Huang had these encouraging words for those with mental illness: "You are not your disability, you are not your illness, you have many talents."

kashc@sph.com.sg