Mental Health Issues: Preservation & Treatment

by Darya Ebrahimi


The issue pertaining to mental health is not a unique one, a large number of people all around the globe suffer from different types of mental health issues. But, what is unique is the way in which governments tackle the issue systemically. Where Malaysia is concerned, there is undoubtedly a long way to go. In malaysia, 1 out of every three people suffer from mental health issue, this alone should be reason enough to have a deep look into the issue and bring about systemic changes. The COVID-19 pandemic not only brought about physical health issues but an increase in mental health problems for people around the world but in this case Malaysia. A great deal of Malaysian citizens were suffering from inflated levels of stress, anxiety, and depression as a result of social isolation and financial hardships alongside losing family members and loved ones to COVID-19. From march 18 to june 9 2020 alone there were 78 recorded attempts of suicide in the country. The year prior, there were 65 suicide attempts, and alothough covid-19 exacerbated these issues, the fact of the matter remains that mental health problems were prominent long before the pandemic began. 

To help combat this issue, the country’s ministry of health provided resources and publications on mental health as well as psychosocia support to citizens to help them navigate this isolating period. However, the point still remains that mental health issues were already prevalent before the onset of the pandemic. In 2019 NHMS reported jaw dropping 500,000 Malaysians suffering from depression and depressive symptoms. In 1996, the country reported 10.7% of the population suffering from mental health problems, this figure grew steadily to 29.2% in 2015, almost a decade later. In Kuala Lumpur alone, the rate of mental health issues prevalent in malaysians increased to a whopping 39.8% in 2015. 

Mental health issues could possibly become the second biggest health problem affecting Malaysians all around the country after heart disease, according to Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, a member of the MMHA council. A portion of the increase in mental health problems could be attributed to financial difficulties, to which the government responded with stimulus assistance, however more needs to be done in order to address the issue on an emotional and psychological level. 

Addressing these issues starts with raising awareness, as a great deal of stigmatisation and negative outlooks on mental health issues is often rooted in the lack of understanding that leads to an unsympathetic response to those in need. There is often a taboo that comes with seeking mental health assistance or help. This then further impedes on the progress that can be made to improve mental health services. Once stigmatisation is dealt with, it would be paramount for malaysia to decriminalise suicide. Under section 309 of the Penal Code those who attempt to commit suicide shall face punishments such as imprisonment for an extended amount of time which can include a year, a fine or both. This law can be counterproductive as often those who commit to suicide are people who are struggling and are finding it difficult to find a different solution. Furthermore, in Malaysia access to mental health professionals is not accessible to everyone. The treatments and therapy sessions can bear great financial costs for those in need. As a result, mental health services become a luxury and only available to those within a higher income bracket. 

Lastly, there is an incredible lack of funding and although the budget has seen an increase this year, in comparison to the gravity of the issue the funding remains miniscule. It is important to note that mental health is a relatively new area of discussion and the majority of the countries in the world have yet to effectively address the issue at its core. Governments owe to their citizens to take strides in addressing this issue.