by HARIZAH KAMEL / pic by AFP
LIVING in the Covid-19 era has taken a toll mentally on many people as the pandemic’s uncertain effects on one’s life could bring about extremely stressful events.
Relate Mental Health Malaysia Bhd (Relate Malaysia) told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently that they have received an increase of about twofold to threefold of cases where people need psychological help.
Relate Malaysia clinical psychologist Lum Khay Xian said they are getting higher numbers of enquiries on services during the pandemic.
“We know that an increase in mental health problems is not something new,” she told TMR.
She said according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 (NHMS), there was an increase in mental health problems, from 10.7% in 1996 to 29.2% in 2015.
“When the pandemic strikes, it is likely that the increase is even more so as the uncertainty could threaten our sense of safety and bring a sense of hopelessness in individuals, especially when they experience stressful life events,” she explained.
This includes loss of income, change in class format, family conflicts, loneliness, school closures and reopening of schools, and loss of loved ones during the pandemic.
TMR reported that up to 1.2 million households would fall under the poverty line if no financial assistance is given during the Movement Control Order (MCO) 2.0.
The country’s statistics showed that the economically disadvantaged group is more susceptible to mental illness such as depression caused by pressing challenges, mainly financial hardships.
Lum said socioeconomic status is found to be correlated with psychological wellbeing where income declines are associated with increased risk of mortality and higher level of mental distress.
This is also shown in the NHMS that was conducted in 2015 where the bottom 40% (B40) income group recorded a higher rate of mental health conditions (32%) compared to the non-B40 group (28%).
To address the mental health needs of the B40 group, she said several parties would have to work together to help.
“It is important for the government to provide more job opportunities and financial assistance to help stabilise their circumstances, which could indirectly help lower mental distress to a certain extent.
“The community and relevant bodies should work together to increase mental health awareness and improve access to mental health services through free workshops with the B40 group and establishing more affordable mental health services,” Lum said.
She added that the move is to normalise mental health conditions and let people know where to seek professional help.
More cases relating to social issues and mental illness during the MCO have continued to emerge.
In January, the police had disclosed that reports of incest cases were on the rise since the first MCO on March 18, 2020.
Suicides were also increasing. Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba told the Dewan Rakyat last December that 465 attempted suicide cases were referred to the ministry for treatment between January and July 2020.
In November last year, the police revealed that 266 individuals had taken their own lives between March and October, with 25% of the cases relating to debts, followed by family (24%) and marriage problems (23%).
Five months into the first MCO, the National Fire and Rescue Department had attended to 88 suicide attempts, of which 78 people were rescued, seven injured and three died.