Dealing with mental health is a collective responsibility – Free Malaysia Today

Posted: October 19, 2020 at 3:57 am


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World Mental Health Day (WMHD) was commemorated on Oct 10 with the theme Mental health for all Greater investment Greater access. Everyone, Everywhere. It is a very apt theme as we are now facing great challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even before the pandemic, mental health problems have been increasing globally, despite the improvement in treatment methods and technology. As such, there was a need for greater investment in mental health and improved access to treatment.

Given the pandemic, this need is even more dire.

Mental health issues are growing along with the number of Covid-19 infections. Anxiety and depression from the sense of helplessness have become more common in the community, especially when economic activities are significantly affected.

This is also evident with the demand for mental health professionals increasing exponentially worldwide.

Mental health problems are an added disability to discharged Covid-19 patients who experience more than just physical disabilities, such as fatigue and reduced breathing efficacy.

Research has shown that at least half the individuals recovering from the virus develop some form of mental illness such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression and generalised anxiety disorders.

These conditions increase the burden of disease that is already severely impacted by the virus. This impacts all layers of society, from individuals and families, to the larger community and frontliners who face high risk of infections daily.

Support services on the verge of burnout

With a second wave of infections in Malaysia, it is expected that stress and anxieties surrounding the daily reports of cases and death will be at an all-time high.

Mental health and psychosocial support services that have been very active in providing 24-hour help to both the general public and frontliners are themselves already on the verge of burnout.

Malaysia is already doing its best given the dearth of mental health professionals in the country.

Recently, the country increased its budget to cover for psychological treatment, by doubling the number of Medicare-funded psychology sessions for the public in light of increasing mental health problems related to the pandemic. However, with demands for help skyrocketing, funding can do little if human resources are scarce.

Given the limited resources, there is a need for all of us to heed this years WMHD theme by investing ourselves, our time and effort to improve access to mental health and psychosocial support to everyone, everywhere.

Mental illness is everyones problem because we are all connected. Especially with the current threat of Covid-19, we are either affected ourselves, or live or work with people who are afflicted. So, it is our collective responsibility to do something about it.

How can we do this? By improving our mental health literacy.

It is about improving our knowledge on mental health and mental illness, as well as the factors affecting them.

Mental health literacy

Mental illness has a face. It looks just like you and me. You dont have to look like the typical image associated with a psychiatric illness to have a problem. If you do, then your problem is likely to be severe.

Mental health literacy involves knowing where, who and how to seek help for mental health issues. Learn to manage your own mental health.

Provide mechanisms in place to maintain recovery by engaging in daily activities that improve independent functioning, such as regular physical activities and other self-care initiatives. Learn to also provide psychosocial help to others.

It is important to recognise that mental illness can be treated and one can be empowered to seek help or to help others seek help for mental health issues. This is a positive attitude that comes from having adequate mental health literacy. It serves all levels of community, workplaces and organisations.

Community leaders skilled in psychosocial help and organisations providing mental health resources such as employee assistance programmes can reinforce positive attitudes towards mental health. Flyers and notices that provide information for mental health resources can also make a difference.

Active efforts to promote mental health management is something we ALL can do. Theres no need to just depend on mental health professionals or organisations.

Prevention begins with us. Lets get savvy about mental health and share with others. We all could do with the help and support.

Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon is head of the Psychology Department at Sunway University.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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Dealing with mental health is a collective responsibility - Free Malaysia Today

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October 19th, 2020 at 3:57 am

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