When I first saw Dr Ko Soo Meng, I was scared.
Having never seen a psychiatrist before, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought he would end up dosing me high on antidepressants, getting me hooked on them, and never taking me off them.
But I persisted after my therapist insisted that I see a psychiatrist.
|Address||Mount Alvernia Hospital
820 Thomson Rd, #02-05, Singapore 574623
|Hours||Monday||9 am–1 pm, 2–5 pm|
|Tuesday||9 am–1 pm, 2 pm–5 am|
|Thursday||9 am–1 pm, 2–5 pm|
|Saturday||8:30 am–1 pm|
What I was facing
I was desperate.
After moving back from the U.K. in September 2019, I was grieving the loss of the people I had called family, the place I had called home, and the peace that I had come to enjoy.
I was also jobless.
Each day, after waving goodbye to my mum, I would apply for 2 jobs, before getting so anxious that I would start binging on cakes, cookies and chocolates, anything that would distract me from the anxiety within me.
In a month, I grew by 8 kilograms.
But it didn’t.
After seeing my therapist twice, he recommended that I arrange a visit with Dr Ko, who was at that time an adjunct lecturer with him at the Singapore Bible College.
I thought there was nothing to lose, but my sickness.
The waiting time
When I first called Dr Ko’s clinic, they gave me an appointment in two weeks.
That was fast, considering that I had made the same call to the Institute of Mental Health just a week earlier.
They asked me to wait for 3 months.
It seemed impossible to get seen fast enough at the national hospital.
Getting private treatment seemed the faster way.
A peaceful wait, without noisy buzzers
When I first went into the clinic, I was surprised at how sparse it was. It was a shared clinic, and there were no frills.
A bunch of old National Geographic magazines lying in a corner. Chairs around, with people looking down at their phones.
There weren’t even any fancy screens around to show the number. Or angry buzzers pushing patient after patient into the room.
It was strangely, serene and peaceful.
Each time there was a new patient, Dr Ko would walk out to call your name.
It was a practice I had seen in the U.K.
But this was the first time I had seen it here.
It meant that I felt welcomed, right from the outset.
Dr Ko would smile as he called your name, as if he wanted to see you. Compare this to your normal wait at the clinic, where you would walk into the clinic, with the doctor’s face normally buried behind the screen.
No screens between you and the doctor
There were no screens in the room. Instead, all that Dr Ko had was a notepad, and a table.
He just spoke to you. I wondered how he managed his patients without a computer.
But it meant that you felt heard, and not just another patient to be keyed in, and quickly ushered through the door.
The assessment process
As a former social worker, I did assessments for a living.
Therefore, when I saw how Dr Ko did his assessment, I was impressed. He didn’t cut in. Instead, he would gently probe, asking question after question to get to the heart of the matter.
He wouldn’t try to quickly diagnose your issue, and usher you out.
Instead, what proceeded was a long, and deep conversation about what was wrong.
It wasn’t your usual 5 minute conversation with the GP. Instead, it was a conversation that helped me to frame and see my issue in a different light.
For Dr Ko, I also liked that he respected my initial decisions, even when they weren’t ideal.
During the first time I met him, he recommended that I take a course of antidepressants. But I was worried that I would end up being artificially high, and would not know the feelings I was truly experiencing.
He respected it and didn’t force it on me.
He simply let me go and recommended that I continue speaking to my therapist.
But when my therapist spoke to me, he said,
John, but you haven’t even tried! How would you know? I have diabetes today. I wouldn’t say that I shouldn’t take it because I’m afraid it makes me ‘artificially’ well.
Dr Ko patiently prescribed those medications again when I went back to tell him I wanted it.
Many people are worried about the costs.
So I will be upfront and share what I paid, which I consider to be quite affordable compared to the rest out in the market.
|Medications||Dependent on the type prescribed|
For example, if you compare to Winslow Clinic, this is about $50 cheaper.
No forcing of further treatment
4 months after taking the first antidepressant, I stopped taking them in February. I felt sufficiently well.
When I told Dr Ko that, he discharged me.
And he told me that I didn’t have to continue seeing him.
He even wrote a memo for me to get insurance, when I eventually needed him to verify that I had recovered.
If you’re looking for a psychiatrist today…
I think you shouldn’t look any further.
Dr Ko is the one to go to, for his diligent care, friendliness, and affordable fees.