• Vol. 41 No. 4, 154–160
  • 15 April 2012

Where do People with Mental Disorders in Singapore go to for Help?



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Introduction: This study aims to examine the pattern of services utilisation and the factors associated with help-seeking behaviour among those with mental disorders in the multi-ethnic Asian population of Singapore.

Materials and Methods: A household survey was carried out on a nationally representative sample of the adult (18 years and above) resident population. The main instrument used to establish the diagnosis of mental disorders and the services sought was the Composite International Diagnostic Interview version 3.0 (CIDI 3.0). The ‘services’ component of the instrument contains questions, which examine service utilisation for mental health problems.

Results: A total number of 6616 completed respondents constituted a representative sample of the adult resident population in Singapore. Only 31.7% of those with mental disorders had sought help: 15.7% from mental health providers, 8.4% from general practitioners, and 7.6% from religious/ spiritual advisors or other healers. Among respondents with severe disability across any disorder assessed in our survey, 50.1% had sought help from some service in the past 12 months. Individuals with moderate or mild levels had lower rates of consultation, i.e. 35.4% and 30.6% respectively. The rate of using the Internet as a source of help was low in this population.

Conclusion: There is a need to engage and work collaboratively with healthcare providers (including religious and spiritual healers) in the community to detect, assess and treat those with mental illness. More general practitioners need to be involved, and the role of the Internet also requires further consideration as a source for help.

Not only are mental disorders prevalent in any country, it is also common that many of those with mental disorders are neither seeking nor receiving help. This is the case even in developed countries: of the 31% of the US population affected by at least one mental illness, 67% of them are not being treated and in Europe where mental illness affects 27% of people yearly, 74% of them received no treatment. Whether or not an individual with mental disorder seeks help is dependent on and influenced by multiple factors including demographic characteristics, culture and religion, socioeconomic factors and the geographical accessibility of services. Understanding these factors and their interaction is important in any effort to change and inculcate appropriate help-seeking behaviour in order to improve accessibility of care.

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