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LAST_UPDATETue, 21 Nov 2017 8am

Mental Disorder Is Going To Affect Over 3 Million Malaysians By 2020 – Will You Be One Of Them?

The warning signs are already there. Back in 2013, the Health Ministry's findings warned that by the year 2020, 10% of Malaysians will be affected by mental illness.

This follows on from a poll on National Health and Morbidity 2011 which indicate that 12% of Malaysians already suffer from some form of psychological morbidity, in short, at least 1 in 10 Malaysians will face some kind of mental ailment in their lifetime and that statistic might include you.

Deputy director-general of Health (Public Health), Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman had also mentioned that those aged above 50 are more prone to mental illness and depression, second only ischemic heart disease.

“This group will face declining health due to chronic diseases, loneliness due to isolation from family and society, lack of interest due to job loss, and financial problems due to the high cost of living” he noted, at a seminar held in conjunction with World Mental Health Day in October 2013.

“Generally, those aged 50 and above will experience emotional, personality and character change, and decline in mind functioning.

“These changes need to be given appropriate attention to help them maintain a good mental health level.”

Usually the elderly are said to be more prone to mental illness because they wouldn’t have people to talk to or express their feelings, but nowadays even young people have this problem as they are too busy to even think of their mental health needs.

A report published in the 2013 Asian Science Journal points to figures ranging from 9 – 35% of the population being afflicted by mental illness.

“Malaysia sits at the heart of South East Asia with a population of 23 million people of diverse ethnicity, cultures and religious backgrounds. In 2000, it was reported that about 10.7% of the population had been diagnosed with mental illness (Jamaiyah, 2000). These numbers are quite high and only based on hospital figures.

“Therefore, the actual number of people living with mental illness nationwide remains unknown. However, the findings of some other studies carried out in both urban and rural areas in Malaysia, have also placed the prevalence of mental illness in the population between 9.6% and 35%, respectively."

Recently, Johor State Health director Datuk Dr Mohd Khairi Yakub also revealed that one in five children between the ages of five to 16 in the country has mental health problem.

He said it was detected via the National Health and Morbidity Survey by the Ministry of Health between 1996 to 2011, to measure the prevalence of mental health problems or psychiatric morbidity.

The nation also received a rude wake-up call when a Form 5 student committed suicide shortly after he sat for the Additional Mathematics Paper I in the SPM examination just weeks ago and earlier in the same month, an elderly man in Bachok, Kelantan was beaten to death with a wooden stick by his mentally unstable 32-year-old son.

Malaysian Digest asked those who are directly involved with mental healthcare to give some perspective to these worrying signs and statistics.

Increase In Various Stressors In The Face Of Uncertain Economic And Political Climate

Serena Sinniah, the Director of Psychology Clinic, HELP University said that there may be an increase in percentage reflecting greater numbers with more awareness about mental illness and with the increase in various stressors such as financial stress, or academic pressures.

It is important to also note that difficulties faced in one area of life can likely impact other areas.

She also gave examples, financial or work-related stress by an individual may negatively affect relationships with spouse and children, and stress related to academic performance may affect relationships at school and with parents at home.

“Firstly, it’s important for individuals and significant others prioritize health, including mental health, and to recognize when there’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

“Apart from seeking professional help when there’s an indication that mental health issues are present, people can also increase awareness of what causes their stress and how to manage it.

“It’s important to promote resilience to prevent against developing mental health issues.

“Family and friends can be supportive and understanding as well as by being observant of significant changes in behaviour.

“Behaviours that are easily noted include those that lead to negatively impact school or work-related performance, those that relate substance use, sleep and appetite change, lack of engagement in usual activities and changes in the way the individual relates to others,” she advised.

Greater Awareness About Mental Health Will Remove The Stigma For Those Who Need Treatment To Come Forward

Koshini, a final year medical student of MAHSA University, who has been posted in the psychiatry ward shares her experience.

“If medically, we recognize cases of depression as a mental ailment then definitely yes, by the year of 2020 many would be affected by mental illness.

“The change in the standard of living and lifestyle would aspire people to move forward towards a goal targeted life, hence everybody wants to be the best and wants the best for themselves.

“Hence putting themselves in pressure which opens up the door to mental stress,” she said.

She also feels that the most vulnerable group that would be affected would mainly be the younger working adults as the need to get "wealthy" is causing them to strive hard.

“Apart from individuals themselves, friends and family are also the important ones that play a major role in distressing these affected ones.

“Spending adequate time and having quality family time is the key to relax for these individuals from their tight schedule and at the same time to provide the boost to continue to motivate them without stressing them.

“We expect to see a rise in patients as people are now well educated and are well aware of their situations and are coming forward to seek advice and counselling upon realising their conditions.

"We definitely encourage them to come forward get treated and continue to continue to harvest the best the life is yet to give,” she said.

Focus On Improving The Nation's Mental Health

Malaysian Mental Health Advisory Council member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye had recently shared his concerns and pointed out key areas in our health services and education programmes that can help improve the community's mental health.

“The government should look into training more psychiatrists and psychologists in hospitals and clinics to deal with mental disorders while NGOs should do more to promote mental health.

“Those who need help to deal with mental problems should be prepared to seek help and not be shy about it,” Lee shared, in an interview with theborneopost.com on November 25 this year.

Lee believed that more needs to be done to educate Malaysian on how to maintain their mental health and reduce their chances of mental illness, similar to how the government continues to educate the public about the importance of keep healthy physically.

“We need to prevent cases of violence committed by the mentally sick, suicides and mental disorders arising from multiple factors.”

He highlighted that psychiatric disorders and other forms of mental illness leading to violence are equally serious forms of medical illness that should not be overlooked in a developed nation.

“It is important during difficult and challenging times like this to ensure the health and well-being of Malaysians and their families through initiatives that promote mental health,” he advised.

The Malaysian Psychological Association concurs with him on the need to focus on educating the public on mental health issues.

Dr. Goh Chee LeongDr. Goh Chee LeongDr Goh Chee Leong, the President of Malaysian Psychological Association (PSIMA) and Dean of Psychology, HELP University said PSIMA as the national association for psychologists aims to improve the nation’s mental health through the following initiatives.

“First is to work with universities to develop more psychology programs at the masters level so that we will have more trained psychologist: including school psychology, clinical psychology, counselling psychology.

“Second is to help improve the quality of psychological services in Malaysia by working with JPA to develop a Psychology Act that will govern the practice of psychology in Malaysia, and will ensure only qualified professionals can practice psychology.

“The last one is educating the public, and community leaders, including parents, teachers, medical professionals, employers about mental health issues.”

-Malaysian Digest