Prepare for rise in mental health issues from lockdowns


MALAYSIA needs to prepare for a much higher rise in mental health issues during Phase 1 of the current total lockdown.

WeCare Allied Health Centre clinical psychologist Shazeema Mashood Shah anticipates a further decline in people’s mental health this time around.

“There has already been an increase in people seeking mental health support since the first lockdown, so I believe we need to be prepared to face more of these issues,” she told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Among the things stressing people out right now, she said, are new Covid-19 cases that are climbing by the day, as well as their daily living costs and what they will have to do if the Movement Control Order (MCO) continues.

“People have been trying to cope with this pandemic for more than a year now.

“Having been through this before, some may know that they can get out of the lockdown fine but for others, the first MCO was probably the worst time of their lives and they might not be willing to go through it all over again,” she said.

Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association (Miasa) founder and president Anita Abu Bakar told TMR a parallel pandemic of mental health is currently happening and it will most probably outlive Covid-19.

“Hence, we must be prepared to cater to the influx of individuals that will be needing help and interventions.

“The irony of it all is, although we are in the most connected era in human history, we are also the loneliest. Being in a lockdown exacerbates the feelings of isolation, loneliness and disconnection, which are all very common during this time,” she said.

During these circumstances, both Shazeema and Anita urged friends and family to constantly monitor, stay connected, as well as support their loved ones through small gestures like calling or texting to maintain psychological closeness and a sense of community.

Anita said physical activities are vital for our wellbeing, therefore we need to be more creative in finding other forms of exercises or activities that can be done at home.

This can be achieved by taking short active breaks during the day, following and performing online exercises and simple physical activities like doing household chores.

“Even a 10-minute brisk walk around the house increases our mental alertness, energy and improves our mood.

“Participation in regular physical activity can increase our self-esteem and can reduce stress and anxiety,” Anita explained.

She noted that it is just as important for one to take a break from the news, read only from reliable sources and try to detox from social media as much as possible.

“Help is available everywhere and one can contact numerous mental health organisations, like Miasa, that provide many services and we also have a crisis team that works seven days a week to assist anyone in need,” said Anita.

Meanwhile, Shazeema said people must educate themselves on the common signs and symptoms of mental health issues, so that they know what they need to do to help others in need during this trying time.