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Database on patients can improve mental health services

New Straits Times logo New Straits Times 23/7/2019 Asma Anuar
a person posing for the camera: It is possible these people suffer from mental health problems because of financial issues. - NSTP/File pic © Provided by Media Prima It is possible these people suffer from mental health problems because of financial issues. - NSTP/File pic

There is an alarming rise in mental patients.

Mental illness can become the second biggest illness, after heart disease, affecting Malaysians come 2020.

The National Health Morbidity Survey 2015 showed an increase in mental health problems, from 10.7 per cent in 1996 to 29.2 per cent in 2015. It said the highest levels of depression were recorded in Sabah and Labuan, followed by Kuala Lumpur and Kelantan. This report showed that young women from low-income families were at higher risk of mental health problems.

The statistics should push government agencies in the Health, Youth and Sports, Women, Family and Community Development, Education and Human Resources Ministries to formulate initiatives to address this, in line with the National Mental Health Policy 2012. Cooperation between sectors should be enhanced to reduce the number of mental illness cases, especially among the youth.

Government initiatives include the Mental Health Act 2001 and National Mental Health Policy 2012, designed to aid strategies for the planning and implementation of health programmes to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the people.

The Clinical Record Interactive System is a mental illness research platform to enable these statistics to be mapped out based on evidence and facts.

Besides being able to collect information, including data on patient demographics, diagnosis, stage of illness and the type of treatment received, it can help outsiders, like non-governmental organisations, conduct research on mental illness by evaluating treatments and improving them.

The database also helps stakeholders respond to government calls, such as helping insurance providers create products or policies that are in line with mental health trends. Insurance providers that want to ensure there is a demand for their products will find the database’s info on mental illness trends useful, particularly on diagnosis and disease stages.

Data from the Peka B40 programme found that three out of 10 adults had mental health problems. The B40 group also recorded a higher rate of mental illness, at 32 per cent, compared with 28 per cent for the non-B40 group.

It is possible these people suffer from mental health problems because of financial issues. There is room for parties that provide assistance, such as zakat institutions in each state, to assist them. A centralised database can help zakat boards track the info and background of mental patients.

The Health Ministry, the community and relevant bodies should work together to improve mental health services, especially in service delivery systems. To achieve this, a centralised database is needed to allow for more efficient access of data.

Asma Anuar

Researcher, Institute for Research and Development of Policy, Malaysia

© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

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