Involuntary hospitalisation is something that's rarely talked about in Singapore.
A DxD reader sent in a question to find out if he could be detained at IMH by force if they feel that his condition has worsened. 5 years ago, he sought treatment at IMH for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). However, he discontinued the treatment because he felt that the medication was not helping him.
Dr Ng Beng Yeong, a renowned psychiarist in Singapore shared his expert advice on this issue.
OCD can be readily treated in an outpatient setting in Singapore
According to Dr Ng, most patients with OCD respond very well to these two treatment methods:
- SSRIs — a group of medication that is commonly used to treat depression
- Exposure & response prevention— a form of psychotherapy to help break patient's OCD cycle
Patients with OCD usually pose no threat to others
Dr Ng explains that most patients with OCD are not aggressive or suicidal, so it's very unlikely that they will be forced to stay in a psychiatric hospital against their wishes.
In fact, most of them have insight into their issues and will readily comply with the instructions given by the therapist.
However, you can be involuntarily hospitalised by doctors from IMH
Under Section 10 of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act (MHCTA), all doctors conferred by Ministry of Health (MOH) or Institute of Mental Health (IMH) has the ability to detain a patient without their consent. They do not even need to be a psychiatrist to invoke the section.
Doctors outside of IMH however, cannot involuntarily hospitalise their patients.
Any doctor can get you 'referred' to IMH
Image credit: Singapore Insitute of Mental Health
Any doctor can invoke Section 9 of the MHCTA to get you to seek treatment at IMH. The attending doctor from IMH can get you admitted; but not without rigorous assessment.
"It sounds risky to seek mental health treatment in Singapore!"
No, that's not true! Patients shouldn't assume that all doctors are out to hospitalise everyone with mental health problems.
Doctors will only invoke Section 9 or 10 of the MHCTA on their patients if they think that it will benefit them.
If you're cooperative, there's little chance of you being detained
As long as you are reasonable, polite, and communicate your symptoms well to your doctors, it's almost impossible for IMH doctors to hospitalise you by force, aganist your will.
You'll only be forcibly hospitalised if:
- You are refusing treatment
- All treatments adminstered have failed
- You are a potential threat to others
Psychiatrists sometimes even hesistate to ward suicidal patients
Even in supposed 'imminent suicide' / 'high risk cases', psychiatrists hesitate to involuntarily ward their patients as this would only further agitate the patient. Instead, they would try to tackle the problem that the suicidal patient is facing.
However, if there is a loss of mental capacity (Catatonia, Severe Psychosis) and especially if the patient is going to hurt those in society, Section 9/10 will have to be invoked.
Keep calm to receive stellar mental healthcare
Regardless of where you choose to seek treatment, it's important to remember that the doctors are here to help you.
Work towards building a deep a level of trust with your doctor and you can be assured that they are doing everything out of your best interests.
To find out more, read his full answer on OCD treatment in Singapore here.
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