BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – About 7,000 people are being treated for mental illnesses in Brunei, the latest health ministry figures showed.

Nearly 4,000 people were diagnosed with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, a severe mental disorder with hallucinations and disorganised thinking that can impair patients’ ability to function.

The ministry also recorded over 3,000 cases of mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder.

People with bipolar disorder can experience extreme mood swings that interfere with their daily life, while depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in Brunei.

The number of people suffering from mental health issues account for 1.5 percent of the Brunei population.

In his message to commemorate World Mental Health Day 2020, the health minister said the COVID-19 pandemic has further heightened levels of anxiety, depression and social isolation.

YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said statistics have indicated a high level of usage in mental health services across the country.

RIPAS Hospital’s psychiatry services registered up to 40 new adult patients and about 600 follow-up cases each month.

Almost 100 new mental illness cases were also reported among children and adolescents from January to September this year.

Moreover, the hospital’s psychological services received between 400 and 600 patients per month.

The minister added that Talian Harapan 145 recorded more than 200 calls a month this year. The helpline was launched in February last year following a surge in suicide cases over the past four years.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said shame and fear of discrimination are still preventing individuals from seeking professional help despite accessible mental health services in Brunei.

Addressing the World Mental Health Day theme of “Mental Health for All: Greater Investment – Greater Access”, the minister said one of the best investments in mental health is to raise awareness and improve understanding of mental disorders.

He added that better understanding of mental health issues will result in more involvement from people, in terms of providing support and showing empathy.

We must work together to address the stigma related to mental health. Mental health is not just the responsibility of the Ministry of Health, but a shared responsibility.

All levels of society need to be concerned about mental health because it affects many aspects of our lives,” the minister continued.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said public participation in the health ministry’s events and activities is one way to increase understanding on the importance of mental health.

Among the events lined up to mark World Mental Health Day include a mental health awareness exhibition, forum and Mental Health Awareness Virtual Run 2020: 10/30/50 km Run, Walk, Hike or Cycle Challenge.

Members of the public can also play their part in mental health by lending support and guidance to friends, family or community members.

“During these uncertain times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the public can support friends and family members by asking how they are doing, provide an outlet where they can express their feelings and be a good human,” the minister said.

Individuals can also seek professional help from Talian Harapan 145 or government health centres.