Address mental health issues
The Star Online, 10 October 2013
AS Malaysians commemorate World Mental Health Day today, let us focus on the need to initiate and organise more activities and programmes to promote good mental health in the community.
There is growing evidence to show that the burden of disease in our community is gradually but surely moving towards poor mental health and mental diseases.
Diseases such as depression is rapidly becoming a major source of stress not only on the individual and his family but also on his community as a whole.
Of late there has been an increase in the number of suicide cases involving persons with mental health disorders.
Psychiatric disorders and other forms of mental illness are tragic reminders of another side of life which must not be overlooked in our quest to become a fully industrialised nation by 2020.
The impact of mental health problems, on the people and their families as well as society as a whole is immense and needs to be addressed.
It is necessary to ensure the health and wellbeing of Malaysians and their families through initiatives to promote good mental health among Malaysians from the viewpoint of sound social development.
We need to respond to tragedies related to mental disorders with compassion and not act with prejudice. After all, mental disorder is a diagnosis, not a verdict.
Our country needs more community mental healthcare centres to provide mental health counseling, deal with stigmatisation, create awareness about mental health, and empower the service users and their families.
Stigma is a major issue in mental health problems. Some describe it as the last frontier to be overcome.
Today stigmatisation and discrimination are clearly seen as major problems in treatment, coping and living with mental health problems.
Stigmatisation makes people suffer, keep people away from help and services, and hinder intervention.
When they are advancing along a recovery pathway, they require an optimally resourceful mental health service. This requires optimal ratio between healthcare providers and service users.
We therefore need to train more psychiatrists and psychologists for our hospitals and clinics to deal with people suffering from mental disorders while non-governmental organisations should be given financial assistance to promote mental health in the community.
We are also severely lacking in psychiatric occupational therapists.
Students who have severe symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression should be given appropriate interventions which include counseling and mental health coping skills.
The increase in stress levels whether in schools or at workplaces is one of the major factors causing more people to develop mental disorders.
Among the mental health promotion activities that can be implemented in schools include promoting mental health literacy in the school community through talks, exhibitions and quiz.
Schools need to have more trained counselors with skills and techniques to guide and help students to handle stress and cope with life situations.
The issue of mental health among students must be addressed with a sense of urgency. If they do not get our help, our nation is going to be burdened with a generation suffering from serious mental health problems in an ever increasing competitive global environment.
It is a matter of serious concern that the number of children aged 15 and below suffering from mental health problem is on the increase.
Health Ministry statistics showed that mental health problems involving this group rose to 13% in 1996, 19.4% in 2006 and 20% in 2011.
We need to instill basic self-confidence in the child with the cooperation of parents so that any failures or disappointments will be seen as opportunities to try again rather than as a lack of ability and taking the road to disaster.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health