Exploring Mental Health Illness in Malaysia including Prevention Tips

Written by Eve Bandusena | Parents Avenue’s Editorial Assistant

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Exploring the climate of mental illness in Malaysia is important as it provides us with a sense of awareness and knowledge of the prevalent issues faced such as common biases, why procuring help is restricted, and what can we do to prevent mental illness occurring.

The climate of mental illness in Malaysia

According to the Star, an estimated number of 4.2 Malaysians are living with some form of mental health issue, as stated by the Health Minister Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad. “Based on the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 study by the ministry, the prevalence of mental health issues among adults above 16 years old is 29.2%, or simply put, 4.2mil Malaysians,” he said, while adding that women contribute to half of the number of Malaysians living with mental health issues.

It’s also been found that depression and anxiety disorders amongst other mental illnesses experienced by Malaysians are quickly on the rise and found that these problems are often caused by the following reasons as stated by National Health Morbidity Survey (NHMS) are:

  • Financial difficulties
  • Failure to meet expectations
  • Pressure from surrounding environments
  • Poor parenting
  • Environmental factors

Other than that, the survey stated that gender discrimination, overworking, domestic violence, and sexual abuse are other main problems that affects a Malaysian’s mental health. It’s important to remember that mental illness is a condition that affects people from all walks of life, regardless of age, race, religious backgrounds and so forth. The number of Malaysians suffering from a form of mental health conditions are staggering and is proof that the mental illness is more prevalent and should be addressed.

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The Biases of Mental Health
Today, mental health conditions are one of the issues that have received an enduring onset of stigma along with HIV/AIDS, leprosy, sexually transmitted diseases amongst others. 
Over the years with the efforts of researchers, scientists and the advancement of modern technology, antibiotics have been found to completely cure leprosy, antiretroviral therapy has been discovered to suppress HIV and cause people living with this condition to prolong and live healthy lives but somehow, the attention on mental health is still very far behind. 
In popular culture over the years, we’ve also witnessed a string of celebrity deaths attributed to mental health, from Anthony Bourdain, Robin William, Kate Spade to list a few names but the conversation over their cause of death, mental illness, remains misconstrued, misunderstood and misinterpreted. 
We’ve prepared ourselves with using the First Aid Kit, CPR, and even sexual education classes that happen in offices, and schools but the measure we’ve prepared ourselves to mental health issues is virtually unseen and unheard of.
When we see a friend who is bleeding, screaming in extreme physical pain, there’s no doubt we’d take affirmative action. We would help them, drive them to a hospital, treat them with a first aid kit and so forth to lessen or completely stop the source of the pain. However, with mental health, the treatment is far from different. 
When we see symptoms within us or in our friends, we tend to react to it by sidestepping and discounting these problems by saying things like “It’s all in your head!” “Cheer up!” or “Snap out of it!” hoping that what’s eating at us and them will resolve itself, but, unfortunately, it does not.
Anyone experiencing mental illness will often be seen as reclusive and detached, and, because they’re not physically displaying any form of physical discomfort, we’re misguidedly inclined to think that it’s not a big deal and that feel good phrases such as those above will solve their problem.
As the mental health conditions are often subtle in form, recognizing behavioral changes is one of the steps you can take to recognize the symptoms. The faster one acts on it, the better the outcome will be.
Why mental illness isn’t taken seriously and why people who need it aren’t seeking treatment
 Unfortunately, one of the reasons mental health conditions have been met with such stigma, lack of awareness and attention, and having its development being stunted within societal norms is because it’s seen as issues of emotion, thinking and behavior, and this shows a lack of legitimacy as it’s mostly attributed to a person’s poor life choices, and, the ineffectiveness of an individual. 

People suffering from serious cases of mental conditions have often been isolated and treated outside the bounds of traditional health care and in that way, mental health care has long been somewhat unequaled to traditional health care. 
According to a study published by the Journal of Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, stigma was a large factor in preventing people from seeking help. Stigma is defined as negative attitudes held by others, is a barrier to receiving treatment for mental health disorders.

Perceiving negative attributes such as believing individuals with mental health problems are weak, incompetent, and cannot take care of themselves, are common forms of stigma and may contribute to increases in harmful attitudes, they stated. 

Negative views of treatment and shame related to experiencing mental illness may also preclude young adults from seeking needed treatment. 
Aside from that, barriers that avert individuals from seeking treatment may come in the form of:
  • Preferring to deal with mental health problems themselves
  • Not having enough time to participate in treatment
  • Having doubts about mental health treatment as a remedy
  • Lack of money
  • Worries regarding the perception of what others would think if they participated in therapy
  • Beliefs that these are normal problems that solve themselves without need for treatment
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 Tips to prevent mental illness


Prioritizing our mental health is as important as taking care of our physical. Here are 10 things you can do as carefully curated by the Health Service of the University of Michigan to ensure your mental health is at its most optimal level. 

  • Value yourself

Treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self-criticism. Make time for your hobbies and favorite projects, or broaden your horizons. Do a daily crossword puzzle, plant a garden, take dance lessons, learn to play an instrument or become fluent in another language.

  • Take care of your body:

Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. Be sure to:

  • Eat nutritious meals
  • Avoid cigarette
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercise, which helps decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods
  • Get enough sleep 
  • Surround yourself with good people

People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Make plans with supportive family members and friends, or seek out activities where you can meet new people, such as a club, class or support group.

  • Help out

Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else. You’ll feel good about doing something tangible to help someone in need — and it’s a great way to meet new people.

  • Learn how to deal with stress

Like it or not, stress is a part of life. Practice good coping skills: try Tai Chi, exercise, take a nature walk, play with your pet or try journal writing as a stress reducer. Also, remember to smile and see the humor in life. Research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and reduce stress.

  • Quiet your mind

Try meditating, Mindfulness and/or prayer. Relaxation exercises and prayer can improve your state of mind and outlook on life. In fact, research shows that meditation may help you feel calm and enhance the effects of therapy. 

  • Set realistic goals

Decide what you want to achieve academically, professionally and personally, and write down the steps you need to realize your goals. Aim high, but be realistic and don’t over-schedule. You’ll enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress toward your goal. 

  • Break up the monotony

Although our routines make us more efficient and enhance our feelings of security and safety, a little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule. Alter your jogging route, plan a road-trip, take a walk in a different park, hang some new pictures or try a new restaurant. 

  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs

Keep alcohol use to a minimum and avoid other drugs. Sometimes people use alcohol and other drugs to “self-medicate” but in reality, alcohol and other drugs only aggravate problems. 

  • Get help when you need it

Seeking help is a sign of strength — not a weakness. And it is important to remember that treatment is effective. People who get appropriate care can recover from mental illness and addiction and lead full, rewarding lives. 

For further inquiries or to seek consultation you may contact Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association at 03-7732-2414, or send them an email at [email protected]
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