More outings to help IMH patients adapt

Trips with nurses to supermarkets and coffee shops can make a big difference

When they are eventually released, long-term patients at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) may find themselves facing difficulties with basic tasks such as crossing a road.

In an effort to help them better re-integrate into the community, staff there are organising more trips to get them out and about.

It is part of the National Healthcare Group's (NHG) new model of care which emphasises prevention and healthy living instead of hospital-based treatment.

Since June, IMH nurses have been making outings to places like coffee shops and supermarkets a monthly affair instead of relying on volunteers to arrange them or organising mock public situations.

Nurses say that such outings can make a big difference as they give patients the opportunity to apply the life skills they are taught within the IMH, including how to talk to strangers and how to budget their expenditure.

On visits to coffee shops, patients can try ordering food for themselves without IMH staff being too close on hand. "When they are out there, they have to rely on their own judgment, their own decision-making and problem-solving skills," said IMH senior staff nurse Toh Kar Eng, 28.

One patient with schizophrenia refused to use pedestrian crossings because he was afraid of cars and would insist on using the overhead bridge instead.

But Mr Toh said that after two or three outings, the man was willing to try using the pedestrian crossing, showing that such outings are effective in helping them overcome their anxiety.

Yesterday, the NHG organised a walk at MacRitchie Reservoir to commemorate its 15th anniversary and Singapore's 50th birthday.

Around 500 people from NHG participated, along with 10 patients from IMH and staff from the Dover Park Hospice.

Mr William (not his real name), 66, who suffers from schizophrenia, said: "It makes me look forward to more outings."

This article was first published on August 16, 2015.
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