Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Malaysia - A side of life less talked about

THE incident involving a man with bipolar disorder, who ran amok and damaged statues of deities at a Hindu temple in Ipoh, Perak, once again highlights the seriousness of the issue of mental illness.

People with mental illness need better care and more attention.

The incident led to religious disharmony, and the inspector-general of police had to call on Hindus to remain calm.

Such incidents, which occur from time to time, have brought to light the deteriorating state of Malaysians’ mental health, which is an issue that needs to be urgently addressed.

Those with mental health problems must seek consultation and treatment. They must not shy away from being treated, in the fear that they would be stigmatised, isolated or ostracised.

Psychiatric patients, with the help of family members, must follow through on the prescribed course of treatment.

Any member of the family who has mental illness must be encouraged to seek treatment. It is equally important for us to not have a skewed perception of those who are mentally ill.

On the contrary, this group must be helped and treated. Amok and suicide cases involving the mentally ill serve as a tragic reminder of another side of life that is less talked about, but nevertheless, is very real. It is a part of reality that must not be overlooked in our quest to become an industrialised and developed nation.

According to the World Health Organisation, depression is ranked fifth among the major causes of disability today. It is expected to jump to second place in 2020.

No country or person is immune to mental illness, and the impact — in psychological, social and economic terms — is high. It is, therefore, essential to mount a comprehensive nationwide campaign to educate all strata of society on ways to acquire the right knowledge to lead a lifestyle that practises good mental health.

The promotion of mental health involves the government, community and family unit. The government should provide more community-based mental health services.

One such way would be to increase the number of psychiatric units in hospitals. It should also look into training more psychiatrists and psychologists. Non-governmental organisations, on the other hand, should be provided with annual grants to do more in promoting mental health.

Creating greater awareness on mental health, and empowering the mentally ill and their family members to stand up against stigma and discrimination through education and public engagement, aimed at understanding mental illness and encouraging involvement in mental health efforts, are some strategies that we can undertake to de-stigmatise mental illness.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, member, Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council

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