Statistics show that depression, anxiety and stress are common mental health issues among the populace in the Sultanate, exacerbated by the arrival of the COVID-19 outbreak in the last two years. At present, 7,000 individuals – among them adolescents and children – are receiving mental health treatment at the Psychiatry Department, Ministry of Health (MoH).
Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar shared this on the fifth day of the 18th Legislative Council Meeting yesterday, adding that the matter is one of concern as “there are a number of them who are determined to commit suicide”.
In 2020, 14 suicide deaths were recorded, six of which comprised locals and permanent residents. Only three of the reported deaths were recorded as having sought psychiatric and psychological help. “This matter should be taken seriously as it can steer individuals towards destruction, and will no doubt bring loss to families, communities and even our country,” the minister said.
With sights cast on a holistic approach to lowering mental health issues, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said the MoH is further strengthening the strategy by formulating a draft of Brunei Darussalam’s Mental Health Action Plan 2021-2025. It contains four key strategies supporting the objectives of the MoH strategic plan, and provides greater emphasis on a whole-of-nation approach in addressing mental health issues, while complementing the national action plans in place.
He highlighted that this includes leveraging and mobilising resources available from public and private sectors as well as the non-governmental sector.
Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said Brunei Darussalam has shown commitment not only in addressing the issue at the national level, but has also recognised its importance at the global level; the Sultanate led cooperation in the field of mental health as one of the deliverables under the ASEAN Cooperation while chairing the ASEAN Summit 2021.
“The MoH is aware of the importance of providing useful information for health education to the community. The MoH is actively working to continue to pioneer innovative methods in the delivery of information to the public,” he said.
“In this regard, the MoH welcomes the development of ideas and criticisms to further improve the quality of information presented. Through the use of social media and info-communications, fuelled by the COVID-19 outbreak, it has taught the MoH to closely and effectively stay in touch with the public, although there are limitations in dealing with the volume of public comments, in view of the limited staff,” the minister said.
“Influencing public attitude towards personal healthcare is a big challenge for the MoH. This is the key factor in ensuring efforts to reduce the rate of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and premature deaths show results.
“Health promotion and screening programmes will be further enhanced, with the hope that they will be implemented through innovative and effective methods to improve health literacy among the community,” he said, adding that the Brunei Darussalam Multisectoral Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (BruMAP NCD) 2021-2025 will be launched in the near future to give priority to the prevention, early detection and management of NCDs and their risk factors. This is one of the MoH’s ongoing efforts in determining the direction of policies and strategies for the control of NCDs.
To complement the BruMAP NCD, the MoH and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) are collaborating in reviewing and integrating the Healthy Ageing Strategy Draft with the Elderly Action Plan that is being updated.
“To support the plan, the MoH will continue to review and update the role of the Multisectoral Taskforce on Health in jointly achieving the goals of the key focus areas identified,” he added.
The MoH is also increasing the generation of information through strategic research studies and forecasting the behaviour of the target group to formulate strategies that can positively influence the community. This includes the need to adopt the behavioural insight concept and establish a unit with technical assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO) to identify factors that influence individual behaviour in maintaining personal health; as well as carrying out a pilot study on diabetes management and intervention through BruHealth application, which will also be conducted from March to September 2022 with technical cooperation extended by EVYD Technology Sdn Bhd in generating data to study the effectiveness of lifestyle change interventions among diabetic patients. This study also aims to provide awareness and education to patients to be able to control the disease and health as well as improve their quality of life.