COS 2015 Debate: MOH – Mental Illness (MP Low Thia Khiang)

By MP for Aljunied GRC, Low Thia Khiang
[Delivered in Committee of Supply on 12 March 2015]

Madam, in December last year, the state coroner concluded that a woman was found to be in a “profoundly unsound” state of mind when she killed her elderly mother before jumping out of her flat to her own death. Her teenage daughter was in the flat at the time while this tragedy unfolded. The state coroner also found that the woman had never been formally diagnosed with a mental illness while alive, although she told her family that she was hearing voices and was displaying signs of paranoia.

This tragedy illustrates how difficult a problem mental illness is in the community. Often, patients who suffer from mental illnesses or conditions refuse any efforts at intervention, medical or otherwise. Those who have been treated may also fail to follow-up on their treatment or medication, resulting in their conditions relapsing or even worsening. Their family members may also find it difficult to know what needs to be done or even recognise that their loved one may be suffering from a mental health condition and need intervention. Fear of social stigma together with the lack of awareness by both the patient and the family only serves to make matters worse.

In 2012, when I raised the same subject in this House, MOS assured us that MOH will take a whole-of-Government approach to meet the needs of persons with mental illness and their caregivers.

In 2014, we were told that there have been measures put in place by IMH to track those receiving outpatient treatment. MOS mentioned that IMH is enhancing its capacity in this area. Does this mean that IMH is now effectively tracking outpatients? If so, what is the frequency of contact with the patients? Also, what would IMH do in cases where patients or potential patients refuse treatment or do not respond to home visits?