PETALING JAYA: Mental health patients can also seek psychosocial rehabilitation in government hospitals as outpatients instead of being admitted into a centre.
The Health Ministry’s Selayang Hospital psychiatry department head Dr Toh Chin Lee said the ministry provides this treatment through the department and its community mental health centres.
“Patients who have achieved symptom remission can still get psychosocial rehabilitative care from government hospitals and community mental health centres on an outpatient basis.
“This is especially so if they are functioning well and are living with people who are able to look after them,” he said when contacted.
However, Dr Toh agreed that there was a risk of some patients slipping back into their stages of illness without proper extended care.
“Psychosocial rehabilitation is a spectrum that covers the learning of simple living skills up to supported employment, to prevent them from sliding into remission stage.
“It is our hope that private institutions will also help our efforts by focusing on psychosocial management and not just the medical management of patients who come to them,” he said.
For recovered patients and those already with good function, the Ministry has a programme called Supported Employment, where a team assists recovered patients to look for jobs and also get them settled in a new job.
According to Dr Toh, the team can also work with employers to educate them on the patient’s illness and provide tips on how best to work with the patient in the office environment.
Should the employer find out that the patient is suffering a relapse, the team will also be there to help out.
“Currently, this programme is only offered by selected government hospitals, but we are hoping the private sector will also take the initiative and offer a similar one.
“This is because it is best for a recovered patient who is functioning well to return to work as soon as they can, otherwise a relapse may occur sooner,” he said.
Dr Toh noted that there were patients who had sufficiently recovered but had yet to regain the confidence to enter the professional workforce.
Patients like these, he said, are usually sent to work in community mental health centres where they manage simple jobs such as those offered in the cottage industry.
On the possibility of government hospitals and centres being overburdened because of excess demand for psychosocial rehabilitation, Dr Toh said so far all institutions were able to cope with the number of patients.
“However, we want to do more, and for this we need increased resources and build up capacity to ensure more patients are treated and remain healthy,” he said.