Schizophrenia top mental disorder afflicting Filipinos who seek help, says study

Schizophrenia is the top brain disorder affecting mentally ill Filipinos who seek consultation and treatment in hospitals in the country, according to a study released on Friday.

The study was based on records culled from the new Philippine Health Information System on mental health (PHIS-MH), comprising information from 2,562 patients who consulted 14 participating public and private hospitals from May 8, 2014, to May 6 this year.

The PHIS-MH is the country's first database that aims to gauge the mental health of Filipinos today.

A joint initiative of the University of the Philippines Manila National Institute-Institute of Clinical Epidemiology, Department of Health, Foundation for Advancement of Clinical Epidemiology and Philippine Psychiatric Association, the system was developed to address the lack of a database and to improve individual case support and monitoring of mental health across the country.

The project was funded by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson and Johnson.

Showing initial findings, project leader Dr. Ma. Lourdes Amarillo in a forum last Friday reported that over 11,000 information sheets were distributed to the 14 participating facilities. Of these, 80 per cent were collected.

Of the 9,066 patient records collected, 4,122 were encoded and of this number 2,562 were uploaded into the system. The rest were still wary about sharing their records in the system, according to Amarillo.

"Even with this initial data, we should be able to come up with a figure that will be useful for our country," she said.

Elaborating on key findings, Dr. Tomas Bautista said that of the more than 2,500 patients who consulted the participating health facilities, 42 per cent were living with schizophrenia, a type of psychotic disorder that can be disabling when left untreated. Majority of them were men aged 20 to 44.

"Many of them are male because they are more aggressive, especially if they are floridly psychotic," said Bautista, a psychiatrist at UP-PGH.

He said their families were more watchful of mentally ill male patients because of their tendency to be violent, thus, they were brought more often for consultation or admission to a hospital.

"The female presentation [of the disorder] is not as violent or aggressive as their male counterpart," he added.

Bautista said that from the initial figures gathered from the database, it could be estimated that about one per cent of the country's total population, or roughly about one million, are suffering from the disorder, which is usually caused by chemical imbalance in the brain.

Sufferers usually have hallucinations or delusions and show extremely abnormal motor behaviour. They also often hear voices or see things. These experiences trigger anxiety and withdrawal.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), roughly one in 250 people globally suffer from schizophrenia. It appears in men in their late teens and early 20s and 10 years later in women.

Initial records from the database also showed that 15 per cent of the patients who allowed their records to be shared were suffering from bipolar disorder, followed by substance abuse at six per cent.

Other disorders listed included major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, schizoaffective disorder, acute and transient disorder, and stimulant related disorder.

The study also showed that only 22 per cent of the patients on record were covered by the state-owned Philippine Health Insurance Corp. either as members (13 per cent) or dependents (nine per cent).