The HEALTH : May 2019 | Page 13

MAy, 2019 | The Health issue: mental health Malaysian state of mental health The MMHA is optimistic about the future of mental health management in Malaysia 13 Major barrier Dr Andrew also thinks that one of the prevalent reason on why people are afraid to come out and say that they have mental health issues, is that there are no financial support to get help. “Insurance plans widely doesn’t cover incidence of mental or psychological problems. That becomes a major barrier for people to not be more forward in experiencing mental health issues,” he tells. For most, therapy and other services relating to the embitterment of mental health are out-of-pocket expenses. Heightened awareness is showing T he Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) is perhaps the oldest association formed to support, counsel, and reha- bilitate people with mental illnesses in the country. Formed in 1967 by a group of mental health professionals and commu- nity leaders from University of Malaya, the non-profit voluntary organisation also continuously advocates for better mental health while trying to destigmatise mental illnesses. MMHA is currently led by Assoc Prof Dato Dr Andrew Mohanraj Chandrasekaran, Consultant Psychiatrist and a veteran in psychosocial rehabilita- tion. According to Dr Andrew, mental health issues in Malaysia is certainly rising, however the awareness for it is also at a promising rise. Complete rehabilitation services MMHA was formed as a way to support people with mental illnesses, and the core activity is psychosocial rehabilitation. However, MMHA also provide resi- dential facility next to their centre as a way to cater to people living outside the Klang Valley area receiving rehabilitation. “This ensures that they are fully participating in their programmes as well as providing support for the family members. MMHA is not only concerned about getting people with mental illness to have access to relevant services, but also to give the family the support they need. This is because we know that at the end of it, it is the family which determines the effectiveness of the therapy,” he expresses. Dispelling myths about mental illnesses “The MMHA have done quite a number of activities in regards to creating awareness for mental illness. We will usually have all our activities chartered out for the year, and it will culminate on World Mental Health Day on 10 October annually,” he begins. The MMHA have organised the 2018 Mind Run & Carnival in Bukit Jalil, where 3,000 people have par- ticipated. “What is most interesting in regards to the event was that after it has been done, we have received many requests from universities to actively participate in any of their activities relating to mental health. We see that as an accomplishment acquired by the event.” The MMHA, as stated previously, are very keen on establishing better awareness regarding mental ill- nesses. And they particularly focused on destigmatising the conditions among Malaysians. “Most of the activities we do have a strong emphasis on dispelling the myths surrounding mental illnesses as well as the people who are experiencing the condition,” he adds. Prevalent yet are still ignored Dr Andrew spoke about how prevalent depression and anxiety disorders among Malaysian are nowadays, and also how they are still widely being misunderstood. “We are so used to the thinking that mental illness, particularly chronic mental illness, has to be a psychotic disorder – also known by the stigma-fueled term ‘crazy’. Therefore we think that people with mental illness will always have psychotic behaviour. This is actually a myth. Not more than two percent of people with mental illness are actually psychotic.” he firmly states. Because of the myth involving mental illness, and the stigma that goes along with it, people are not coming out, accepting, and telling people that they have mental health problems. “This is the major issue really, in terms of people with depression and anxiety. And unfortunately, we don’t actually see that, because it is not very obvious.” We are so used to the thinking that mental illness, particularly chronic mental illness, has to be a psychotic disorder – also known by the stigma-fueled term ‘crazy’. Therefore we think that people with mental illness will always have psychotic behaviour.” Dr Andrew believes that mental health management and awareness in the country will improve. Having said that, Dr Andrew happily acknowledges the fact that awareness for depression, especially among employees in the workplace is increasing in current times. “The awareness among Malaysians regarding depression has been astounding, given by the fact that we have received numerous requests by colleges, universities, and big corporate workplaces to engage with their employees. It shows that they are admitting that workplace depression is an issue.” “It shows that things are changing for the better in our country for mental health,” he says. Looking forward to change As previously stated, MMHA does a lot of advocacy work among the public. However they also advocates to key players in the industry in better supporting mental health. “We have been engaging with various ministries, as well as Bank Negara and major corpora- tions in the insurance industry.” “I know that even as we speak, the insurance indus- try is taking into consideration the need to have some form of medical coverage for mental health problems. They just need to work out the details as things are not always clear-cut when it comes to mental health,” he tells. Dr Andrew, as the president of MMHA declares that he is confident change will come for the better, in awareness, support, and management of mental health problems in Malaysia. — The Health