11/10/2021
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Mental health in an unequal world, leave no one behind

By Dr Yoong Lee Yeen / Prof. Dr. Moy Foong Ming

Mental health plays a very important role for one’s general wellbeing and physical health. Poor mental health may affect non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.1

Therefore, we should take care of both mental and physical wellbeing to stay healthy.

 The theme of the World Mental Health Day on 10th October 2021 – “Mental Health in an Unequal World” emphasizes on the mental health for all, in enhancing mental health education, awareness and advocacy.2

Mental health issues had been longstanding, and increasing in needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 pandemic has impacted greatly in the economic aspects, especially on the financial hardship across many industries, many individuals have loss of jobs, loss of shelter, had difficulty bringing foods to their tables and lack of financial support. These had taken a toll on mental health in increasing stress, anxiety, depression and even suicide.

COVID-19 had brought on social isolation due to the SOP restrictions, many have separated from loved ones who stayed afar. Even those who are staying together under one roof, some are isolated for quarantine, and the fear of getting infected is widespread. Those infected with COVID-19, on the other hand, got anxious and worried for the progress of disease and even death. It has become even tougher for those who lost their loved ones during the pandemic, moreover for families that lost their breadwinners. Not forgetting, the frontline workers who might get burnt out after fighting day and night with the overwhelming workload in treating the COVID-19 patients. These have highlighted the importance and tremendous needs for mental health resilience.

According to American Psychological Association (APA), psychologists defined resilience as the well adaptive process in facing the change, trauma, disaster, threats, or major sources of stress.3 Here are some ways to maintain mental health resilience:3

  1. Build connection by prioritizing personal and group relationships. It is crucial to talk to a trustworthy and understanding person who genuinely care for us, knowing that we are not alone in challenging time. 
  2. Keeping well by self-care and practicing mindfulness. We have to take care of ourselves physically and mentally by choosing a healthier lifestyle and better emotional management, instead of choosing negative outlets that might harm ourselves.
  3. Finding purpose by acknowledging and accepting our emotions could give us an opportunity for self-discovery to find ways out of the hardship we face. Hence, move towards the realistic goal to make a better change in overcoming the issues and help others as well to get rid of similar situations for better.
  4. Embrace healthy thought. Reframing is important as we can choose to see things from the bright side of life. Looking from the positive lens could help us to accept the changes and grow to be hopeful and stronger out of the challenges. 
  5. Seeking help. It’s alright to be not okay, seeking help is a brave move in getting closer to a healthier mind and body. We are not alone in this, reach out to get supported.

A single arrow is easily broken but not a bunch. Hence, mental health resilience is not only meant to be built on individual alone but, in a whole society approach in order to move forward together as a whole. Social support is vital to keep each other checked and be present for one another, building the social cohesion to build a nurturing environment. Choose to be kind to one another to find hope in the darkness, to walk through this pandemic together.

In order to cope with the high mental health demands, the Sector of Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Violence and Injury Prevention (MeSVIPP), Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Section, Disease Control Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia has made Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Service (MHPSS) reachable to all.

The MHPSS hotline are 014-3223392/ 011-63996482/ 011-63994236/ 03-29359935 or more NGOs hotline via https://tinyurl.com/MHPSShotlines. They have also listed the agencies for food and transport assistance at https://tinyurl.com/foodtransporthelp. For more information about mental health, feel free to visit Minda Sihat website at https://www.mindasihatkkm.com.4 

“Come forward to seek help, it is okay to be not okay.”  Move forward together for mental health for all as a society, leave no one behind. Where there is unity, there is always victory! 

References

1 Patel, Vikram, & Chatterji, Somnath. (2015). Integrating Mental Health In Care For Noncommunicable Diseases: An Imperative For Person-Centered Care. Health Affairs, 34(9), 1498-1505. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0791

2 World Health Organisation (WHO). (2021). World Mental Health Day 2021

3 American Psychological Association (APA). (2012). Building your resilience

4 Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH). (2021). Minda Sihat Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia

(Dr Yoong Lee Yeen and Prof. Dr. Moy Foong Ming, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Malaysia.)

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