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    Worrying trend in mental health issues: Minister

    James Kon

    Survey and observations found that the trend of mental health issues in Brunei Darussalam is worrying. The Global School-Based Health Survey (GSHS) conducted in 2019 in the country showed the rate of suicide attempt among teenagers aged 13-17 years was as much as 12.2 per cent, an increase from 5.7 per cent from the same survey in 2014.

    Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar highlighted that mental health issues were being given considerable attention by the Ministry of Health (MoH) during the muzakarah session between the MoH and Legislative Council (LegCo) members at Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre (PJSC) yesterday.

    Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said in an effort to address the issues, “Talian Harapan 145 service was launched in 2019 and as of the end of 2022, more than 10,600 calls were received. In 2022 alone, 2,428 calls were received, which is an average of over 200 calls per month.“

    He revealed that the average number of suicide cases has also seen an increase.

    “From 2010 to 2015, the average number of suicide cases was as much as five per year, which increased to 10 cases per year from 2016 to 2020.

    “In line with the data, the community and Clinical Psychology Services also found an increase in cases referred to the service. Currently, as many as 400 to 600 cases are treated each month.

    “The MoH hopes that this matter can be addressed with a whole-of-nation approach.”

    Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham added that community leaders have a critical role in dealing with mental health issues through approaches such as spirituality, skills and mind development, education and also financial approaches.

    Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar visits a facility at Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre. PHOTO: JAMES KON

    The minister also acknowledged that the ministry still faces challenges to maintain sustainability of the healthcare system and in realising Brunei Vision 2035 towards citizens who have a high quality of life.

    The minister said the main challenge is non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

    “The Sultanate is predicted to be burdened by increasing rates of chronic NCDs, along with a significant increase in the number of elderly people.

    “The MoH continues its efforts in increasing health awareness in the community, including promoting healthy ageing among the elderly. But the public also needs to play a role and take responsibility for their own health.”

    Since entering the Endemic Phase on December 15, 2021, Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said, “Health services in the country have gradually recovered and are now running as usual in government clinics and hospitals.

    “Progress was made while the country was facing the pandemic, including the use of digital technology in healthcare such as the BruHealth app which has been expanded its features such as teleconsultation, allowing patients to access test results through digital medical records and make appointments. This has empowered the public to be responsible for their health.”

    He added, “The MoH will continue to ensure service will always put the customer first.

    Projects to ensure the safety, comfort and welfare as well as provide convenience for patients and users are being conducted, including infrastructure upgrades, new services, the provision of sophisticated and modern medical technology and equipment, as well as the outsourcing of non-clinical support services.”

    On infrastructure, the minister said projects such as a new block at Jubli Perak Sengkurong Health Centre, a new emergency service building at Suri Seri Begawan Hospital (SSBH) in Kuala Belait, a new block at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital are being constructed and Bru-HIMS 2.0 project is being carried out under the National Development Plan (RKN).

    The Clinical Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory for Infectious Diseases in the Tutong District was completed and started operations in November 2021 with state-of-the-art equipment.

    The laboratory’s ability to carry out genetic sequencing for pathogens that cause infectious diseases will support the country’s preparedness in dealing with infectious diseases.

    Other developments include the opening of a Day Care Ward at RIPAS Hospital to accommodate patients who require minor surgery, new services such as the Audiology Services at SSBH for Belait District residents and the shuttle bus service at Jubli Perak Sengkurong Health Centre that started in May 2021. Meanwhile, medicine delivery service has received a positive response.

    The minister added, “Providing modern and advanced medical technology helps medical experts carry out treatments more effectively, quickly, accurately and safely.

    “Among the technologies in use are Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) for Radiology Services and Cardiology Services throughout the country, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) for Dental Services, Therapy Data Management System (TDMS) for Dialysis Services and the addition of CT Scan machines in Belait and Tutong districts.”

    The 15 LegCo members, led by Yang Berhormat Haji Sulaiman bin Haji Nasir, also visited the facilities and services in PJSC, including Radiotheraphy, Early Detection and Cancer Prevention Services (EDCPS), Day Care Unit (DCU) and the Rehab Department before the muzakarah session.

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