Malaysia’s 1st mental health handbook launched

Mental health literacy is crucial in helping to identify early signs and symptoms to treat and manage mental disorders, says health minister

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK/ pic by BERNAMA

MALAYSIA now has a handbook on mental health to raise awareness among the public to recognise symptoms.

It was jointly launched yesterday by the Malaysian Psychiatric Association (MPA), Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) and Pfizer Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said mental health literacy is crucial in helping to identify early signs and symptoms to treat and manage mental disorders.

“Mental health problems affected one in three Malaysians, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015, and valid knowledge for the community is one of the most important steps to promote greater understanding of mental health issues,” he said at the joint launch in Selangor.

He added that the handbook, which was developed via a private-public partnership, is written with easy reading in mind to provide information on four mental disorders namely depression, anxiety, bipolar and schizophrenia.

“The handbook provides an invaluable and credible resource guide to help Malaysians deal with mental health issues,” Dr Dzulkefly said.

To further supplement future carers, the handbook also provides important information on how to reach out to someone with mental health problems, steps to manage one’s mental wellbeing and a useful directory listing of mental health services in Malaysia.

MMHA deputy president Associate Prof Dr Ng Chong Guan said it is pertinent for colleges and universities to educate students on how to identify signs and offer help.

“It is also vital to build positive mental wellbeing and emotional resilience among adolescents and equip them with effective coping techniques to deal with daily challenges and mental stress,” he said.

He added that one way to deal with the obsession for instant gratification that is present in the social media age is to reflect and do a mental check-in regularly.

“At the end of the day, we need to evaluate solid interactions we have with others, such as how much time we spend talking to others, rather than focusing on the amount of likes we receive on social media,” he said.

Based on a research survey conducted by MPA in 2019, president Dr Hazli Zakaria said about half of the respondents, which make up 50.7% of 276 total respondents, prefer talking to a friend about their mental health issues.

“Meanwhile, Internet search is the second-ranked choice. Among the youths, over half of them (65%) would likely use a smartphone application to seek for information on mental health, too,” he said.

He said, however, eight out of 10 of the respondents, (85%), were worried that seeking mental health may affect their career prospects.

“As you can see, youths may be open to seeking help, but they are still concerned about the stigma and how seeking help may affect their future. One in every two (52%) are concerned about negative family reaction,” Dr Hazli said.

Based on the 2019 research survey, 67% or over two-thirds of youth were embarrassed to seek help.

Dr Hazli said 30.8% of the respondents had background history of being in mental health services.

“This means that at least there is a number of us who are not ‘naïve’ when it comes to mental health treatment. It is important to know that mental illness is treatable. Mental disorders encompass a broad range of problems with different symptoms,” he said.

He added that limited mental health resources will always be an issue and a cycle of a sort in Malaysia.

“But how can we overcome that? One of the reasons the waiting time in the public services is long is due to the large amount of cases. Therefore, research is important so that we can find out the severity of cases we have in the country,” he said.