Monday, June 21, 2021

Prolonged lockdowns, money issues behind rise in mental problems

Experts reiterate the importance of getting professional help in the wake of recent worrying findings on mental health in Malaysia.

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Mental problems brought on after more than a year of changed routines due to lockdown measures have played out in a number of ways, with counsellors saying there have been cases of marriages ending in divorce as a result of the stress of being confined indoors, in addition to financial burdens.

This comes in the wake of the latest findings of the National Health and Morbidity Survey, which said three in every 10 people aged 16 years and above have mental health issues.

Professional counsellor Nur Liyana Abdullah, who has worked at the government’s Talian Kasih hotline, said changes in daily routines, which have marked people’s lives for more than a year, would indirectly affect their emotional state.

“Usually they would spend time outside, eating out and meeting with work colleagues, going to the movies or just strolling outside to reduce stress,” she told MalaysiaNow.

“But now, they spend the whole day at home and this limits them from doing the things that would ease their stress.”

The latest findings of the National Health and Morbidity Survey say three in every 10 people aged 16 years and above have mental health issues.

Liyana said a large number of calls she had handled on Talian Kasih were about depression as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She told MalaysiaNow of instances where couples had taken out on each other their emotional stress due to financial problems, made worse by them spending while at home during the movement control order (MCO).

She said many would fall into a state of depression and anxiety, and in serious cases, experience mental breakdowns.

“There was a couple where the wife had had enough of the constant fights with her husband, after going through the loss of a job and trying to find ways to generate income.

“As each of them was in a state of stress, they would often take their anger out on their children,” she said.

Talian Kasih, a service by the women, family and community development ministry, primarily deals with issues concerning domestic violence and child abuse.

It was reported that there had been a spike in the number of calls to Talian Kasih weeks after the first MCO was declared in March last year.

Liyana said mental health issues and depression should not be taken lightly, adding that those who experience them must seek professional help.

“People must realise that mental illness is just like other physical illnesses.”

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Firdaus Abdul Gani however said there are reservations within society when it comes to talking about mental illness.

She said it is wrong to equate mental illness with insanity, adding that problems associated with mental health take many forms including depression and anxiety.

“People must realise that mental illness is just like other physical illnesses. It can be treated and there is a chance of recovery with suitable treatment,” said Firdaus, who is a committee member of the Malaysian Psychiatric Association.

As things stand, though, she said there is a negative connotation to mental illness which discourages victims from seeking treatment.

She said society must be educated about the signs of mental illness, adding that if left untreated, the victims would be a danger to those around them.

“There is a possibility that patients who are emotionally disturbed will experience hallucinations and delusions, and could act out of bounds in the absence of treatment.”

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