Last month (October 10) was World Mental Health Day. In Singapore, the first National Mental Health Week to raise awareness of mental illness and to reduce the stigma around it began in 1987.
Mental disorders can be a complex combination of both genetic and environmental or lifestyle factors. Early diagnosis and access to treatment are critical to managing the disorders. In terms of our awareness of mental illness, a recent survey showed that at least five in 10 people were able to identify the symptoms of dementia (66.3 percent), alcohol abuse (57.1 percent) and depression (55.2 percent).
The Mental Health Literacy study conducted between March 2014 and March 2015 by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) asked people about their perceptions of five common mental disorders. Besides the illnesses mentioned above, fewer people were able to identify symptoms associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (28.7 percent) and schizophrenia (11.5 percent).
While it is reassuring to know that two out of three of the 3,006 adults who participated in the IMH study were able to identify dementia occurrence, the recognition of symptoms does not necessarily imply that people understand the sickness.