Press Statements

Stigma deters Malaysians from seeking help for mental illness

Date: 8 December 2019

PETALING JAYA: By 2020, mental illness is expected to be the second biggest health problem affecting Malaysians after heart disease.
A recent survey revealed that one in every two young Malaysians (50.7 per cent), preferred to talk to a friend first when seeking help for a mental health problem, underlining the importance of the community’s access to mental health knowledge and resources.
About 276 participants, through an online survey, revealed that they had a background history of being in contact with mental health services.
The random web-based questionnaire was conducted from August 5 to Sept 18 this year.
The Malaysian Psychiatric Association (MPA), the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) and Pfizer Malaysia today jointly launched a new Mental Health Handbook aimed at enabling Malaysians to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and seek professional help early.
“Mental health literacy is crucial in helping to identify early warning signs and symptoms, treating and managing mental disorders. Mental health problems affect one in three Malaysians and validated knowledge for the community is one of the most important steps to promote greater understanding of mental health issues.
“The Mental Health Handbook, which is jointly developed through a private-public partnership, provides an invaluable and credible resource guide to help Malaysians deal with mental health issues,” said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad during the official launch of the handbook earlier today.
Based on the survey results, more than 50 per cent of mental health sufferers preferred talking to a friend about their mental health issues, while an internet search is the second ranked choice.
Among youths, more than half surveyed would likely use a smartphone application to seek information on mental health.
However, those who were surveyed were also worried about mental health stigma and being treated discriminately for seeking help.
More than eight out of 10 (85 per cent) are worried that seeking mental health care may affect their career prospects, while one in every two (52 per cent) are deeply concerned about the negative reactions from family and friends.
More than two thirds (67 per cent) of those affected are embarrassed to seek help.
It was also pointed out that early intervention was crucial for young people as the National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2017 reported that suicidal thoughts among teenagers aged between 13 and 17 had increased from 7.9 per cent in 2012 to 10 per cent in 2017.
By Audrey Vijaindren
Photo credit: New Straits Times
This article was first published in NST on 3 December 2019.