Too Poor for Mental Illness

Too Poor For Mental Illness

How can a country that prides itself on healthcare policies view mental illness as a second or third priority? What I hope for is the day mental illness is treated with the same importance and seriousness as any other illness. Mental illness is, after all, a brain disorder.


 

 

 

‘You gotta be rich to be insane, Hol. Losing your mind is not a luxury for the middle class.’

– Cecelia Ahern, P.S. I Love You

In today’s world, mental illness is for the rich and proper psychiatric treatment is a luxury. While there are some government subsidies in Singapore such as Medisave (limited to $400 per year), the subsidised treatments are often inadequate. For example, a woman referred to a psychiatrist in January may only get an appointment in July. If she misses that appointment, it is another six months of waiting.

This delays early intervention (if you can even call it “early” by then) by a great deal and could very well be the difference between rehabilitation and relapse.

Should that woman face an incident (e.g. medication reactions) she wants to report to her psychiatrist, her call will likely be bounced from department to department before she is told to call back later or to wait for someone to call her back. It can take up to six hours to get a hold of your psychiatrist (trust me, I’ve been there).

If she switches to private treatment, however, the bills are going to skyrocket.

It was only until recently that Singapore extended the use of Medisave use to cover psychiatric treatment. However, only up to $400 per year can be used, and it is only after you have paid 15% of the bill that you are allowed to use Medisave. When your Medisave account has been depleted, you can turn to MediShield Life. Unfortunately, it still is not enough to cover psychiatric treatment.

When MediShield Life was introduced, insurance coverage was extended to cover inpatient psychiatric treatment but the benefit coverage is capped at $100 per day. To give you a sense of the financial toll, one 25-day stay in SGH in a B2 ward came to $7,086, with $2,058 covered by Medisave. MediShield Life would not be enough to cover all the rest.
Source: Ann Williams, The Straits Times

This is absolutely absurd to me. How can a country that prides itself on healthcare policies view mental illness as a second or third priority? What I hope for is the day mental illness is treated with the same importance and seriousness as any other illness. Mental illness is, after all, a brain disorder.

 All mental processes are brain processes, and therefore all disorders of mental functioning are biological diseases.
— Eric Kandle

What can we, as mental health care consumers, do? As some say, if you want to do it right, you have to do it yourself. Let’s start small and look at what we can do.

What causes the government, and society in general, to overlook mental illness or deem it as unimportant? Probably ignorance (I don’t know if it is by choice or not). Mental illness is not “bad enough” to be taken seriously to them. How do we change that? Advocacy. What does advocacy consist of? Awareness and education. We have to keep in mind that our voices and actions are not insignificant.

On the contrary, just one person saying “I have a mental illness” brings us one step closer to awareness and acceptance. Just the idea of people knowing we mental illness may be horrifying. However, if you are ready to step forward and do it, know that you are doing something for all mental health care consumers in Singapore.

All this being said, I concede that the government is starting to hear us, and for that I am thankful. Hopefully, our voices will be loud enough for them to listen and at least attempt to take action.



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