by ANIS HAZIM / pic by TMR FILE
OVER the past year, the pandemic has put a spotlight on wellness, particularly mental health among citizens all over the world, including Malaysians.
Gardenia Bakeries KL Sdn Bhd (Gardenia KL) corporate affairs and public relations GM Hazlinah Harun said Malaysia had come a long way in raising awareness about mental health but more still needs to be done.
“The pandemic has become a magnifier of mental health challenges in the community and Gardenia believes ongoing conversation is greatly needed to help navigate the new normal,” Hazlinah said at a virtual media brief yesterday.
Gardenia KL, together with the Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association (MIASA) and Cilisos Media Sdn Bhd has started their effort by getting a sense of how Malaysians were coping within the lockdown through a survey.
“The findings were helpful in identifying mental health red flags most of us tend to miss. With our partners from MIASA, Gardenia intends to keep the conversation going in the hopes of cultivating greater action towards mental wellness,” added Hazlinah.
The survey drew in responses from Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Penang and Negri Sembilan, with a total of 1,029 respondents ranging in age from 17 to 60 years and above, comprising a mix of single individuals, single parents, married couples, with and without children.
“The survey found that 67.1% of respondents admitted that the Movement Control Oder (MCO) had a profound effect on their mental health.
“The challenges that the respondents cited ranged from having to pivot to remotely working or learning from home, including mental fatigue, anxiety or depression, and frequent agitation,” stated Hazlinah.
Meanwhile, 5% of respondents admitted to having contemplated suicide, with 2.4% of these admitting to acts of self-harm.
Early last year, Gardenia KL allocated RM1 million for its Gardenia Covid-19 Aid Programme in response to the impact of the MCO among bottom 40% (B40) households, and the distribution has been completed in September 2021.
The initiative has benefitted the Food Bank Programme, B40 households and frontliners including delivery riders and taxi drivers serving the community since last March 2020.
MIASA president and founder Anita Abu Bakar said it is wonderful to see many parties coming together to empower the community and support each other in these trying times.
MIASA patron Sarimah Ibrahim said it is crucial for society to be able to pick up on the signs and symptoms of a mental health concern to prevent it from becoming a mental health illness.
When it came to eating schedules, the survey found that 63% of respondents ate whenever they felt like it, 37% ate at proper mealtime, while 3.7% went on a diet due to financial constraints.
Besides, respondents who acknowledged having some form of mental illness with no access to medication cited having the least amount of sleep during the MCO, which was 31 minutes less than the average of six hours.
The restrictions correlated with an increase in isolation among respondents with 24.8% said they did not interact with anyone outside their household for more than three days, and 12.2% not interacting with anyone at all for more than three days.
Moreover, about 16.6% admitted to wearing the same clothes for three days or more, 4.43% left their dishes unwashed, while 14.5% ignored cleaning up their room or house until it was noticeably unkempt.
There, MIASA has offered mental health assessment and consultation, counselling services, spiritual therapy, therapeutic assessment, psychological services, peer support which can be reached via its website at www.miasa.org.my or its 24-hour helpline at 1-800-820-066.