by NURUL SUHAIDI
MENTAL stress among Malaysians persists despite most Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) having been lifted and the country having transitioned into endemicity.
Mercy Malaysia exco Dr Keith Tye said from the beginning of the year until June, the platform had been getting calls from individuals who were worried about the effects of easing the SOPs.
“They were afraid that the SOP relaxation would do more harm than good,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.
Among others, Tye added, another unique trend among the callers was teenagers who were frustrated toward their parents who prohibited them to seek treatments when they were unwell.
“Some parents did not bring their children to the hospital despite showing Covid-19symptoms, and this affected their children’s mental health,” he said.
He explained that parents did this because they did not want their children to be stigmatised if they were found to be positive of Covid-19.
Tye did not disclose the number of callers that Mercy Malaysia received but noted that the number has been consistent from January until March 2022.
“Majority of callers tend to reach out for just one session so we could not keep track of their conditions.
“However, most important to us is that the majority of those who are classified as having mental health issues and under intensive care, have seen improvement with scheduled consultations,” he added.
Tye also mentioned that refugees and health care providers were in need of emotional support.
Among the most prevalent mental issues faced by them are post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic attack and somatisation.
“Mercy Malaysia is moving toward establishing a mental health support programme to better cater to this group.
“It is reported that suicidal rate, especially among healthcare providers, is increasing due to the stress managing Covid-19,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association (MIASA) in a recent report said individuals suffering and seeking mental health assistance reported until June this year, had shown positive development.
The association said the total number of people who reached out between January and June of this year demonstrated a significant drop of 26.9 % to 25,258 from the number between July and December last year, which was 93,721.
Based on its record, from the 25,258 people who reached out until June this year, 7,347 received virtual consultations, followed by WhatsApp or texting (5,386), calls (5,318), emails (5,040) and social media (2,167).
It was noted that the downward trend was factored by the public’s optimism about resuming their life.
MIASA president and founder Anita Abu Bakar said the downward trend did not mean that people should become complacent.
“It is important for us to break the stigma and build a more inclusive society so that no one is left behind.
“We must take a proactive action where full transformation in the community with regard to mental health must become commonplace,” Anita told TMR.
She emphasised on adopting approaches such as education and relationship-based solutions, where people battling mental illness can share their stories and experience openly.
“We know that many anxiety and depression cases are still left unchecked.
“Hence, through the role of mental health advocate, rigorous action is needed to tackle that and we still have a long way to go,” she said.
She added that the public must also consider giving those suffering a chance to return to the community.
As part of that mission, MIASA is heightening the advocacy and support through adopting peer empowerment approaches such as focusing on community empowerment, as well as spiritual elevation aspect.
“This also includes non-medical therapy, using creative expression and spiritual treatment to encourage community participation which can also reduce the burden of the healthcare system,” she said.
Anita noted that as of March 2022, more than 100,000 individuals have obtained services at MIASA and 1.5 million people benefited from MIASA’s social media campaigns and activities.
So far, from 2017 until March 2022, there have been 697 activities that have been conducted to normalise the discussion of mental health and educate the public on the topic.
“We will continue to make mental health support accessible to the masses through our MIASA-YSD crisis helpline service, reachable at 1-800-82-0066,” Anita concluded.