The Research Division has established a focus on mental health services and policy in the past few years by conducting research that are actionable and address the real-world questions that people living with mental illness, their families, providers, payers and policymakers face in selecting, delivering, and financing optimal care. Under the four-year Centre Grant that was awarded to the IMH to conduct health services, epidemiological as well as translational and clinical research studies, a number of projects are being conducted by the Mental Health Policy Studies group to address policy relevant issues among the general population as well as patients with mental illnesses and their families. The current research includes the following studies:
Principal investigator: Pratika Satghare, Research Assistant, Research Division, Institute of Mental Health.
Study Period: December 2016- December 2018
Chronic pain (CP) is any pain lasting for more than 12 weeks. CP is reported as a common symptom across the life span among medical as well as psychiatric clinics. Evidence indicates that psychiatric disorders and chronic pain, both individually and as comorbid conditions affect individual’s well-being, productivity, social relationships due to pain related disability and self-despair. This study will recruit out- patients seeking treatment at Institute of Mental Health, Singapore. The participants will be asked to complete a battery of self-report questionnaires containing pain scales and socio- demographic details as well as clinical history such as diagnosis, comorbid conditions and any health service usage for CP condition in the last 3 to 6 months will also be collected. The study seeks to identify the comorbidity of common psychiatric disorders with CP among psychiatric outpatients. Such information will help healthcare providers to offer advanced treatment and management of CP in patients with mental illness.
Principal Investigator: Janhavi Vaingankar
Study period: Dec 2013 – Dec 2015
Mental health is a ‘state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community’. While people with a mental illness may experience lower mental well-being than someone without, they may also have periods of good mental well-being, where they are able to manage their condition and cope with the everyday demands of life. Understanding this can help assess the overall mental health status and functioning of people with mental illnesses. Hence studying the type and level of positive aspects of mental health among people with mental illnesses is important. The Positive Mental Health (PMH) instrument, which was developed by researchers from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), offers information simultaneously on six aspects of PMH that are relevant to the Singapore population- general coping, emotional support, spirituality, interpersonal skills, personal growth and autonomy, and global affect. This study is being conducted among people with select mental illnesses at IMH.
This study aimed to:
Publications arising from the study:
Seow LS, Vaingankar JA, Abdin E, Sambasivam R, Jeyagurunathan A, Pang S, Chong SA, Subramaniam M. Positive mental health in outpatients with affective disorders: Associations with life satisfaction and general functioning. J Affect Disord. 2015;190:499-507. Click here for full text.
Vaingankar JA, Abdin E, Chong SA, Sambasivam R, Jeyagurunathan A, Seow E, Picco L, Pang S, Lim S, Subramaniam M. Psychometric properties of the positive mental health instrument among people with mental disorders: a cross-sectional study. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2016 Feb 12;14:19. Click here for full text.
Sambasivam R, Vaingankar J, Chong S, Abdin E, Jeyagurunathan A, Seow L, Pang S, Subramaniam M: Positive mental health in outpatients: comparison within diagnostic groups. BMC Psychiatry 2016, 16:412. Click here for full text.
Jeyagurunathan A, Vaingankar JA, Abdin E, Sambasivam R, Seow E, Pang S, Picco L, Chong SA and Subramaniam M. Gender Differences in Positive Mental Health among Individuals with Schizophrenia. Comprehensive Psychiatry 74 (2017) 88–95. Click here for full text.
Vaingankar JA, Abdin E, Chong SA, Sambasivam R, Seow E, Jeyagurunathan A, Picco L, Stewart-Brown S and Subramaniam M. Psychometric properties of the short Warwick Edinburgh mental well-being scale (SWEMWBS) in service users with schizophrenia, depression and anxiety spectrum disorders. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. 15:153 (2017). Click here for full text.
Principal Investigator: Asst. Prof. Mythily Subramaniam/Clarissa Ong
Study period: Jun 2014 – May 2016
Hoarding can be defined as persistent difficulty with discarding or letting go of possessions, resulting in clutter that precludes the use of living spaces for their intended purposes. Hoarding behaviour can lead to significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning such as maintaining an environment for self and/or others. Notably, clinically significant hoarding often presents with a comorbid condition, such as major depressive disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and social phobia. The presence of hoarding symptoms in other primary psychiatric conditions also appears to worsen patients’ well-being. Thus, it is important to investigate the status of hoarding in an outpatient sample as well as determine the factors associated with it. These findings can then be used to refine the assessment and treatment strategies used by clinicians.
This study aimed to examine the:
Ong, C., Sagayadevan, V., Lee, S. P., Ong, R., Chong, S. A., Frost, R. O., & Subramaniam, M. (2016). Hoarding among outpatients seeking treatment at a psychiatric hospital in Singapore. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 8, 56-63. Click here for full text.
Lee SP, Ong C, Sagayadevan V, Ong R, Abdin E, Lim S, Vaingankar J, Picco L, Verma S, Chong SA, Subramaniam M. Hoarding symptoms among psychiatric outpatients: confirmatory factor analysis and psychometric properties of the Saving Inventory - Revised (SI-R). BMC Psychiatry. 2016; 16:364. Click here for full text.
Sagayadevan, V., Lau, Y. W., Ong, C., Lee, S. P., Chong, S. A., & Subramaniam, M. (2016). Validation of the clutter image rating (CIR) scale among psychiatric outpatients in Singapore. BMC Psychiatry, 16(1), 407. Click here for full text.
Principal Investigator: Louisa Picco
Study period: Apr 2014 – Mar 2016
Mental illness stigma often results from misunderstandings society have about mental illness and consequently, affected individuals may avoid care and treatment of their condition. Stereotypes also exist in relation to people with a mental illness; these stereotypes and negative perceptions have various consequences and impacts on people with mental illness, often resulting in negative outcomes. For example, stigmatization can contribute to a sense of hopelessness, isolation and low self-esteem. Internalized stigma is a type of stigma that can also lead to self-devaluation, shame, secrecy, and social withdrawal, making it even more difficult to overcome the already existing barriers to daily living among people with a mental illness. Internalized stigma has been found to be associated with depression and anxiety as well as a reduction in hope, self-esteem, empowerment and quality of life. Whilst it is important to understand the complexities relating to internalized stigma, it is also important to look at the effects of stigma resistance or an individual’s capacity to counteract stigma. To date there has been very little research that has looked at internalized stigma and stigma resistance among people with a mental illness in Singapore.
Among outpatients with a minimum of 1 year of treatment at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and a history of major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and schizophrenia, this study aimed to:
Principal Investigator: Professor Chong Siow Ann
Study Period: Jun 2014 - May 2016
Serious Mental illness (SMI) is associated with a dramatic reduction in the lifespan of affected individuals. Life expectancy among people with mental illness is reduced by approximately 30% compared to the general populations. Although suicide is ‘the single major cause of death’ in schizophrenia, the high mortality rate is mainly due to physical health problems. With the institutionalization of patients, the responsibility of caring for these individuals has shifted to the doctors and health care teams. The establishment of the prevalence of medical conditions would help in the development of the relevant interventions and preventive measures for the patients. This will consequently lead to better physical and mental health with a reduction in both morbidity and mortality.
Principal Investigator: Zhang Yunjue
Study period: Jul 2014 – Apr 2016
Mental illnesses are chronic and disabling with affected individuals often being unable to fulfil responsibilities normally expected of them. With the advent of deinstitutionalization, the responsibility of caring for these individuals has shifted to family members and relatives. The role of caregiving often entails significant changes in the lives of caregivers, often requiring individuals to modify work hours to accommodate caregiving responsibilities, and juggle various roles. Caregiving has also been associated with emotional distress, reduction in social contact, financial difficulties, and depression which have been collectively studied as caregiver burden. This study is designed to enable us to understand caregiver burden as a multi-dimensional construct encompassing physical, psychological, emotional, social and financial stresses incurred as a result of caregiving. This study has been completed among primary caregivers of relatives who are seeking care at IMH outpatient clinic and other IMH affiliated clinics.
Principle Investigator: Asst. Prof. Mythily Subramaniam
Study Period: Aug 2014 – Aug 2015
Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) is a behavioral problem that has been described in numerous ways. While most users enjoy these games and use them as a form of recreation, for some it leads to problematic use and research has shown that under certain conditions, video-gaming may become psychologically, socially and or physically detrimental to the user . The easy access to and increasing use of internet games among Singaporean children and adolescents contribute to public concerns regarding problematic gaming. However, very little research on IGD has been conducted in Singapore. Thus, the current study will help us understand IGD in Singapore and its association with demographic characteristics, game genre, game use (time spent on gaming), gaming motivations as well as anxiety, depression and social phobia. This study has been completed in people who play online games in Singapore.
Principal Investigator: Janhavi Vaingankar, Senior Manager, Research Division, Institute of Mental Health
Study period: Dec 2014 – Dec 2016
Knowledge of caregivers’ psychological well-being in connection with caregivers’ burden, care tasks, and other factors such as their own health, other care and personal responsibilities is essential as it leads to better understanding of their situation, and for planning interventions to reduce negative psychological impact in informal caregivers of the elderly. Using the Positive Mental Health (PMH) instrument, that assesses positive aspects of well-being such as coping, emotional support and spirituality, and other measures this study will assess the relationship between positive and negative aspects of well-being in a sample of informal caregivers and family members of elderly residents.
This study aims to:
Study includes 21 – 65 year old informal or family caregivers of people aged over 60 years. Participation involves providing written informed consent for the study and completion of two study questionnaires – one at the time of enrolment and the second will be collected by our research assistants within 3 days from participation. The overall study process will require about 1 hour of participants’ time. About 290 caregivers meeting the study criteria will be recruited for the study.
Principal Investigator: Daniel Poremski, Research Fellow, Research Division, Institute of Mental Health
Study period: Oct 2015 – Oct 2016
People with schizophrenia and related disorders may require psychopharmacological treatments in order to control the symptoms of their disorder. These treatments may lead to comorbid conditions which in turn necessitate medical treatment to control. These comorbidities are manageable when detected early and when service users adhere to the service providers prescribed course of action. However, research suggests that service users may not be engaging with the necessary follow-up treatments to manage their comorbidities.
This study seeks to engage service users, caregivers, and service providers in a series of individual interviews to assess how their opinions of treatments may influence their decisions adhering to or prescribing various treatments. This investigation will shed light on the treatment preferences of people with comorbidities (hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hyperlipidemia), their understanding of their illness, and their understanding of treatment impacts on health. The perspective of service provider will be obtained to additionally determine the way in which the screening of comorbidities and subsequent treatments may be facilitated and improved.
The study includes service user adults above the age of 21 who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia or related disorder, and who have a diagnosis of a comorbidity, specifically hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hyperlipidemia. Caregivers to people with these conditions are also eligible. Service providers have already been interviewed.
Participating in the study involves an hour-long interview. During the interview participants will be able to tell the researchers about their treatment preferences and choices. The interviews are not clinical in nature. Approximately 20 service users, 15 caregivers, and 20 service providers will be recruited for the interview.
Poremski, D., Sagayadevan, V., Wang, P., Lum, A., Subramaniam, M., & Chong, S. A. (2016). The impact of stakeholder preferences on service user adherence to treatments for schizophrenia and metabolic comorbidities. PLoS One. DOI :10.1371/journal.pone.0166171. Click here for full text.
Study Period: January 2016- January 2017
Stigma relating to mental illness is a global issue. There are many types of stigma which people with a mental illness can experience. Less widely recognised is the stigma that exists among healthcare professionals because they work in psychiatry and mental health care setting. Associative stigma has been defined as the prejudice and discrimination experienced by parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends, caregivers and co-workers of people with a mental illness (Halter, 2008; Goffman, 1963). Currently very little is known about the stigma experienced by health professionals working in mental healthcare in Singapore, or about their attitudes towards mental illness.
The study aims to investigate and explore:
Staff from specific disciplines, who are currently working at IMH will be informed of the online study. The study will include Singapore citizens, Permanent Residents and foreigners, who are currently working at IMH as doctors, nurses, psychologists, pharmacists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, case managers, counselors and medical social workers and who are aged 21 years and above and able to complete the online survey in English.
Publications arising from the study:
Principal Investigator: Esmond Seow, Research Assistant, Research Division, Institute of Mental Health
Study period: Aug 2015 – Aug 2016
Insomnia may not only be a symptom of some psychiatric disorders, but it may also contribute to these disorders, and lead to lowered quality of life among patients. Depending on the individuals, it may be important to get targeted treatment for insomnia, especially when the treatment of the primary disorder(s) does not improve the patient's sleep. Due to its chronic nature, insomnia leads to substantial impairment in emotional and mental health, and quality of life. The daytime consequences include increased risk of accidents, decreased work productivity and concentration, and daily performance.
Principal Investigator: Mithila Mahesh, Research Officer, Research Division, Institute of Mental Health
Study Period: April 2015 – December 2016
Disordered eating behaviours include any unhealthy pattern of eating ranging from chronic restrictive eating, habitual dieting, and induced vomiting to binge eating. These disturbances in eating patterns often result in discomfort, deteriorating self-esteem and personal or body dissatisfaction. Aspects of emotional and mental well-being are further hampered when disordered eating behaviours are comorbid with psychiatric illness. Studies indicate patients with mood disorders, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders are highly susceptible to comorbidity with patterns of disordered eating. If left untreated and undetected, comorbid disordered eating could potentially increase the severity of symptoms causing worse quality of life for the patient. Though comorbidity of recognized eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa has been well established, there is a lack of knowledge regarding disordered eating. This study allows researchers to understand the underlying psychopathology involved in unhealthy eating patterns, illuminating correlates contributing to disordered eating behaviours in outpatients.This study aimed to:
Subramaniam M, Mahesh MV, Peh CX, Tan J, Fauziana R, Satghare P, Gupta B, Gomathinayagam K, Chong SA. Hazardous alcohol use among patients with schizophrenia and depression. Alcohol. 2017 Dec;65:63-69. Click here for full text.
Study Period: March-Sept 2016
Mental health literacy (MHL) is the knowledge and beliefs about the mental conditions that influence their identification, treatment, and prevention. Five mental disorders- major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), alcohol abuse, schizophrenia and dementia- that are either highly prevalent or have important implications within the context of Singapore were being identified. It will be crucial to assess our medical and nursing students’ knowledge for these 5 locally-relevant mental illnesses as any lack of knowledge identified, if any, from the study may be rectified through enhanced and modified curriculum by the schools to better prepare our future healthcare providers to cater to the needs of our local population.In addition, the field of psychiatry or mental health is facing a shortage of specialists worldwide, sometimes termed as a “recruitment crisis”. Psychiatry, psychiatric patients and psychiatrists have commonly been stigmatised against and reasons for the stigmatisation include fear, prejudices and discrimination. Research has also shown that multiple factors can influence medical or nursing students on a career track. By exploring the specific aspects associated with decision to practise psychiatry or psychiatric nursing, policy and educational changes may be made to improve local recruitment of mental health professionals.Therefore, the proposed study intends to conduct a cross-sectional online study among medical and nursing students in Singapore with two major aims:
Principle Investigator: Asst. Prof. Mythily Subramaniam, Research Division, Institute of Mental Health
Study Period: Dec 2013-Dec 2016
The association between heavy smoking and schizophrenia is well established. Nicotine addiction tends to start at a young age and in most cases before the onset of psychosis. It has even been suggested that nicotine addiction may be a risk marker for schizophrenia. Presently, there are few studies that have examined the temporal relationship between tobacco use and the onset of psychosis.The Singapore Mental Health Study found that alcohol use disorder is prevalent among the Singaporean youths. In patients, excessive alcohol use is associated with poorer medication adherence, higher rate of relapse, poorer treatment response, and overall poorer symptomatic and functional outcome. There is little data on alcohol use in young patients with serious mental illness.
This study aims to:
Patients who are newly-enrolled in the EPIP with be invited to participate in the study. Participants will be followed up at 6 months and 1 year. About 300 patients will be recruited for the study.
Subramaniam M, Abdin E, Shahwan S, Satghare P, Vaingankar JA, Rama Sendren J, Picco L, Chua BY, Ng BT, Chong SA, Verma S. Prevalence, correlates and outcomes of insomnia in patients with first episode psychosis from a tertiary psychiatric institution in Singapore. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2017 Nov 24;51:15-21. Click here for full text.
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