Stigma standing in way of seeking help
| James Kon |
One of the main factors stopping patients with depression from seeking treatment in Brunei is the stigma associated with the disease.
The stigma builds around the negative attitude of the community in general towards people who suffer from mental illness, which includes depression.
This issue was yesterday discussed by Deputy Permanent Secretary (Professional and Technical) at the Ministry of Health Dr Hajah Norlila binti Dato Paduka Hj Abdul Jalil in her address at the opening of the Mental Health Forum held in conjunction with World Mental Health Day 2012-2013.
To address the issue of stigma, she reiterated, “Depression is a disease that causes a change of a specific chemical in the brain and the rejuvenation of the chemical can help with the recovery of the individual suffering from depression. Therefore, depression does not come from the weakness of an individual, and a patient should not be shy to come forward to seek treatment.”
The effective treatment “is a combination of psychology methods and medicinal treatment of anti-depressants. The treatment has been proven effective.”
Earlier in the speech, she highlighted, “We must differentiate between common depression and depression that is categorised as a mental illness. This is because depression needs to be treated immediately to avoid any unnecessary incident from taking place, like self-mutilation and suicide. Early treatment is needed to prevent depression from becoming long-term and chronic as well as reoccurring.”
Depression has a big impact not only on the individual who suffers from it, but also the family and the community as a whole from the cost borne either directly or indirectly.
For individuals who suffer from depression, they feel that the depression is torture and suffering is hard to express. The patient might always be absent from work, or if at work, might not be able to execute their tasks properly. In developed countries, absenteeism from work as well as the downfall of performance and productivity is caused by depression, resulting in a loss of billions of dollars to the government and employers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are around 350 million depressed patients around the world and this number is expected to increase in the coming future – especially among youths. It is also estimated that 10 per cent of the community suffers from depression in their life.
In Brunei, depression is the second highest case registered with the Department of Psychiatry at RIPAS Hospital.
Dr Hajah Norlila highlighted that some of those who suffer from depression will not seek treatment from doctors and that sometimes doctors cannot identify their depression.
Globally, about 50 per cent of sufferers will seek medical treatment. This is because of many factors, namely – insufficient doctor, doctors failing to identify the depression or patients refusing to seek treatment.
Therefore, in a move to increase the skills of doctors to identify the signs of depression, she explained that “the Psychiatry Department at RIPAS Hospital is currently and will continue to organise a number of activities and professional sessions on mental problems for doctors who are working in the basic health services section.”
Another move taken globally, with Brunei included, is spreading the word on the illness, such as the symptoms, signs, causes, outcome and impact as well as treatment and rehabilitation, all in a bid to help the patient and his family.
Among the present at the forum was Dr Lailawati binti Hj Jumat, the Acting Director General of Medical Services.
The forum aims to raise awareness on the importance of mental health among the community, as well as to increase understanding on depression in order to identify and treat patients suffering from depression.