Monday, November 21, 2011

Anonymous mental health screenings? -Raymond's letter to the press- TODAY Newspaper

The findings of the mental health study conducted by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), reported in "I am not mad" (Nov 19), are cause for concern.

With a global financial crisis looming and as stress levels in our fast-paced society increase, there is a need to find quick and sustainable solutions to meet the challenges ahead. One of the biggest hurdles preventing people from seeking treatment for their mental health is stigma.

But as it is important to do so, I suggest that the Ministry of Health (MOH) set up an online site where people could do a voluntary, anonymous self-assessment of potential mental health or addiction problems.

The online questions could be designed to review one's situation with regard to the more common mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and alcoholism
The screening would not provide a diagnosis but give guidance as to where help could be sought. It would inform the person concerned whether or not he/she has symptoms consistent with a condition that would benefit from further evaluation or treatment.

Available in the four main languages, such confidential self-assessment exercises should be managed by professionals.

To further encourage treatment to be sought, perhaps MOH could consider giving heavily subsidised or even free treatment for the first two consultations, be it at public hospitals or by general practitioners who have been trained in basic mental healthcare.

Grassroots leaders and the Community Development Councils could reach out to the lonely elderly, vulnerable groups and those who are unable to access a computer, by carrying out face-to-face assessments with residents.

Any medical certificate issued by IMH should also not bear its name, as there are few enlightened employers. It would be better if such MCs have the National Healthcare Group's endorsement.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

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