Mental health cases on rise with economic gloom — Doc

Dr Bawih (third left) presents an invitation letter to Lee, while other members of her delegation look on.

MIRI: The Psychiatry Department of Miri Hospital registers an average of 500 new cases here each year, with the majority of mental health patients in the productive age-group of 19 and above.

According to the department’s psychiatrist, Dr Bawih Inu Pu’unshe, she was concerned as the number of people with mental health problems was increasing.

Speaking to media at SUPP Senadin branch yesterday, Dr Bawih, who is also chairman of Mental Health Association (MHA) Miri, did not deny that the current economic gloom had contributed to the increase in stress.

“Economic downturn has caused increase in stress because the people are struggling financially to support their living expenses, paying for loans, education and many others.

“For some individuals who have poor coping skills, they fail to manage their stress and problems well, thus becoming a risk for mental health problems such as depression, psychosis and suicide.”

In addition to that, she said some may abuse drugs and alcohol to cope with the stress whereas excessive use of alcohol and drugs predispose the individual to mental health problems.

On statistics, she pointed out that a total of 7,800 patients with mental health issues has attended treatment at specialist clinics here last year.

These numbers, she said, does not include those receiving psychiatric treatment in polyclinics and district hospitals in northern Sarawak.

She said statistics also show 65 per cent of the mental health patients were in the productive age-group of 19 until 50 years.

“Some 70 per cent of the patients that we received were having mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. These illnesses are chronic which required long-term treatment, causing deterioration in social, academic and occupational functioning.

“So when these individuals have mental illness, they become less productive and fall into poor and needy group. It also affects the family, because they cannot work to earn a living or perform well academically to improve their social status.”

Touching on Psychiatry Department, she said half of the patients admitted to the department have mental health problem due to drug and alcohol abuse.

The department has three psychiatrists, 12 medical officers and a counsellor who provide services covering northern Sarawak such as Batu Niah, Marudi, Limbang and Lawas.

To date, a total of 125 patients have received community care through home visit under the department’s community psychiatric unit.

Apart from community care, other services available in the department are psychiatric clinic, ward, doctor on-call 24 hours in hospital, visiting clinic in Hospital Marudi/Lawas/Limban and Niah Polyclinic, rehabilitation through employment and enterprise, professional counselling and giving talks to increase public awareness on mental health.

Earlier, Dr Bawih led a group from MHA Miri to extend invitations for the association’s fund-raising dinner on April 22 at Imperial Hotel, including an invitation to Assistant Minister for Land and Air Transportation and Safety Datuk Lee Kim Shin.

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