New wards at IMH for those with mood disorders, early psychosis

Previously, patients with mood disorders and early psychosis would be grouped together in mixed wards regardless of their diagnoses. Housing them in specialised wards is aimed at promoting recovery.
Previously, patients with mood disorders and early psychosis would be grouped together in mixed wards regardless of their diagnoses. Housing them in specialised wards is aimed at promoting recovery.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Two specialised wards for people with mood disorders and early psychosis were officially opened at the Institute for Mental Health (IMH) yesterday.

Unlike the traditional "barracks-style" wards, the new spaces make more use of natural light and have small gardens and designated therapy rooms.

Previously, such patients would be grouped together in mixed wards regardless of their diagnoses.

Housing them in specialised wards could help promote recovery, said IMH chief executive Chua Hong Choon.

"Increasingly, we've realised that we need more specialised and customised spaces for different groups of patients," said Associate Professor Chua.

The institute sought feedback from patients and caregivers when designing the wards, introducing facilities such as a night lounge for those who cannot sleep.

"Even in a family, no one sleeps at the same time," said adjunct Assistant Professor Mok Yee Ming, who is head of the mood disorders unit.

"The night lounge is... where patients who cannot get to sleep at night, or are not yet ready to sleep, have a place to be quiet, read, or play some board games."

The ward for people with mood disorders - such as depression or bipolar disorder - has 40 beds and has been in operation since August.

The other ward, with 20 beds and which caters to people with early psychosis, has been taking in patients since February.

Psychosis refers to a group of mental disorders, including schizophrenia. Those who have the illness can experience symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions.

In the most recent Singapore Mental Health Study in 2010, around 6 per cent of adults in Singapore were found to have had major depressive disorder at some point in their lives. The corresponding number for bipolar disorder was 1.2 per cent.

The new wards will also allow more patients to take part in therapy activities. Previously, only a few could take part at any one time because they were in different wards.

There are also programmes, such as sessions, run by peer support specialists - people who have battled mental illnesses themselves.

One of them is 22-year-old Desmond Ng, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression four years ago.

"You meet people who go through the same experiences as you," he said. "There's a familiarity in some way, and that makes it more comfortable to share."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2016, with the headline 'New wards at IMH for those with mood disorders, early psychosis'. Print Edition | Subscribe