Dr Rajbans Singh
President, Malaysian Wellness Society
THE Covid-19 pandemic has brought an onslaught of consequences, including increasing mental health and distress cases.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) reported from March 2020 to May this year, 85.5 per cent of distress calls received by government agencies were related to mental health issues such as acute stress, anxiety, depression, abuse and suicidal behaviour.
Causes for this psychological and emotional distress include loneliness due to social isolation, loss of employment and declined income which changes their life plans and goals, and even the loss of one or more of their loved ones to the Covid-19 virus.
Meanwhile, those who survived Covid-19 may be struggling with the aftermath symptoms and lingering fear of illness.
At the same time, frontliners, particularly healthcare workers, are overwhelmed with many cases and are experiencing burnouts, fatigue and
Due to the rise in cases, the pandemic has created a long-overdue focus on mental health issues.
Mental healthcare landscape post-pandemic
President of Malaysian Wellness Society, Dr Rajbans Singh, said Malaysia’s mental healthcare landscape in 2022 appears to be good.
“The pandemic has created an awareness about the need for good mental health programmes. And there is a lot of awareness been created by the government and the media and people and corporations are taking mental health more seriously.”
Concerning reports of post-pandemic anxiety cases due to prolonged limited social interaction and fear of illness, Dr Rajbans said: “Again, creating awareness is essential. We are seeing a lot of patients with anxiety, both young and old.
“Relatives and friends and work colleagues can help to identify those with anxiety and advise them to seek help.
“Anxiety, if not treated, can lead to more severe conditions like depression and even suicide.
“The MoH and various NGO’s have helplines that you can call for guidance. Your local GP might be able to help you.”
Despite the awareness, there is still a stigma surrounding therapy and counselling, which prevents people from seeking treatment.
“We need to educate the public about the importance of mental health and informing them through various means that going for therapy and counselling is as important as going to see a doctor for a physical illness. The media can play a big role in this education.”
There is also the issue of the lack of mental health professionals to accommodate the rise of mental health patients.
Currently, Malaysia only has one psychiatrist for every 100,000 people, whereas the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends one psychiatrist for every 10,000 people.
Dr Rajbans stressed the need for sending more persons for training and said: “The MoH has realised this, and also the government needs to allocate a budget for training this personnel.”
Promoting mental wellness
According to Dr Rajbans, wellness comprises many things, focusing on the mind, body and spirit.
“It comprises of a holistic approach to health and focuses mainly on preventive health.
“It will include concepts like having a purpose in life, having goals, having a close and healthy relationship with family and friends, having faith, well-balanced nutrition, regular exercise, managing stress and good sleep habits and avoiding toxins.”
The Blue Zones, he said, have shown that following certain principles will lead to longevity and both good mental and physical health. KHIRTINI K KUMARAN
— The Health