IMH to gauge mental health of nation in 2nd survey

Study will cover more mental disorders and estimate economic cost arising from them

A nationwide survey to gauge the mental health of adults here was launched yesterday.

Led by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), the study aims to conduct face-to-face interviews with at least 6,000 people aged 18 and above from a randomly selected pool of about 15,500.

Participants will be interviewed at home and paid $60, and all information given will be confidential.

The study will find out the prevalence of mental disorders, barriers to their treatment here, and the socio-cultural and economic impact of major mental disorders. These include the association of mental illnesses with physical illnesses, the effect of mental illness on work productivity and how people here seek help for mental illness.

The Singapore Mental Health Study is the second of its kind.

Findings will be compared with those from the first one in 2010, which gauged prevalence of mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and alcohol use. It found that the top three common disorders were major depression (5.8 per cent), alcohol abuse (3.1 per cent) and OCD (3 per cent).

  • Sample questions

  • SLEEP DISORDER

    1. During the past month, how often have you had trouble sleeping because you...

    • Cannot get to sleep within 30 minutes

    • Wake up in the middle of the night or early morning?

    2. During the past month, how often have you had trouble staying awake while driving, eating meals or engaging in social activity?

    HOARDING

    1. How much of the living area in your home is cluttered with possessions? (Consider the amount of clutter in all the rooms of your home, including the kitchen and bathrooms)

    2. How often do you actually buy, or acquire for free, things for which you have no immediate use or need?

    POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH

    1. On a scale of one to six, with six meaning "exactly like me", circle the number showing how much the statement describes you:

    • When I feel stressed, I try to move on

    • When I feel stressed, I try not to let it bother me

    • I spend time with people I like

    • I try to get emotional support from family and friends

    • I find comfort in my religion or spiritual beliefs

The new survey will also look into those disorders and include psychiatric problems not studied in the first survey, such as schizophrenia, sleep disorder and hoarding. It will also ask respondents if they have had suicidal thoughts and attempts.

The study is a joint effort by the IMH, Ministry of Health (MOH), and Nanyang Technological University. Its principal investigator is Professor Chong Siow Ann, who is also the vice-chairman of IMH's medical board of research.

"With the continuous growth of our population, there is a need to review the state of the population's mental health," he said. "It will also give us a good sense of how the mental health landscape has changed in the years since that first study."

The new survey will also study the relationship between positive mental health and psychiatric symptoms and problems, instead of solely looking at mental illnesses. So, for instance, people will be asked whether they try not to let stressful situations bother them.

The survey will also estimate the economic cost associated with mental illnesses, including medical fees and job loss, which was not studied in the first survey.

The study is part of a three-year, $4.9 million project funded by MOH and Singapore Millennium Foundation which started in April last year. The initial phase involved tasks such as designing the study and training interviewers. The survey is expected to be completed by December next year.

The results, likely to be released in August 2018, could be used to guide national policies and planning to meet Singapore's mental health needs, said Prof Chong.

IMH director of research Mythily Subramaniam said: "Those who have been selected to participate will be part of an impactful study on the mental well-being of the nation. As the accuracy of the findings will depend on the information they provide, their participation and full support are critical."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2016, with the headline 'IMH to gauge mental health of nation in 2nd survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe