by NUR MERR

Usually, when the topic of health is brought up, it’s always physical health that is being discussed. Mental health is rarely touched upon and is rarely given attention. This is because mental health is an issue that is still alien in Malaysia. In some developed countries like the United States of America, Korea, and Australia, mental health is given more attention and is discussed more often but in Malaysia we have yet to depart from the orthodox perspective of mental health. Mental illness is a medical condition which disrupts a person’s thoughts, feelings, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. The most common mental disorder is anxiety and panic disorder, as well as bipolar disorder and depression. Statistically speaking, one out of four adults will suffer from mental illness. At this moment, 450 million people are affected by some form of it.

According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015, in Malaysia itself 3 out of 10 adults endure mental health illness. It is so common that suicide is a new trend in this era with the causes being depression, anxiety and panic. But why do most still treat people with mental illnesses wrongly despite how common it has become? This should not sound strange to us. Some people in society are open minded about this health issue but the majority are still following the orthodox way of thinking and aren’t aware of  this situation that is happening all around the world. The common reaction towards common diseases such as asthma or cancer is sympathy and encouragement to seek medical attention while people with mental health issues are usually told to brush it off or to seek religious treatment. That is not what mental health patients need. Most people do not know the importance of seeking medical treatment for mental health patients and these people who are in need of medical attention end up in devastating states.  

The society needs to know that this is an illness that needs attention and not discrimination. They need to know how people with this illness need to be treated. For example, a person with severe depression should not be labelled as weird or different but must be given compassion and understanding. But people tend to label them with superficial names like crazy or insane. Those with schizophrenia are mistreated by being ostracised as they tend to act differently from other people. We should be thinking of ways to help them get better and not discourage them or making them feel like misfits. People with mental illnesses tend to give up on life because they think there is no cure for them and no one cares about them.

They are sent to mental institutions which only imprison them from the outside world. In Malaysia the hospitals are not fully equipped with the best surroundings for patients with mental health issues. The wards that hold these mentally ill patients are like a cell in which they are trapped and deprived from the world before them. Hospitals are supposed to be a place to be cured in and not to make you feel more lifeless. This is why the psychologists or the psychiatrists at government hospitals usually recommend their patients to seek help from private hospitals if they can afford to pay the bill. Some private hospitals are better managed and have specialists in this field. This matter should be taken seriously by society. Mental illness awareness should be raised in Malaysia so that people with this kind of sickness are more willing to come forward and receive proper treatment. In Malaysia there are non-profit organisations such as Befrienders located in Kuala Lumpur that help people with suicidal tendencies to overcome them. The Malaysian Mental Health Association has a website that provides all the information needed in order to obtain treatment.

Governmental bodies should also join these private organisations to create a stronger awareness in the heart of the people in Malaysia. If the government does not take notice of this issue, it is impossible for there to be any change in the manner by which society deals with this type of illness. We should not only encourage people with mental illnesses to go on living, but we should also help them believe in the greater things life can offer.