Better mental health for all

Azlan Othman

World Mental Health Day is celebrated annually on October 10 with the objective of mobilising support and enhancing awareness of mental health issues.

Mental health affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.

Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood to adolescence and throughout adulthood.

Globally, nearly one billion people suffer from some form of mental illness with the majority having no access to mental healthcare.

In low and medium income countries, most of the help is provided by family members or non-government organisations (NGOs).

In Brunei Darussalam, the awareness campaign is held nationwide to encourage people to open up and seek help, no matter their background or status.

Mental Health affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices

According to a psychiatrist at the Health Promotion Centre under the Ministry of Health Dr Alia Zuhaidah binti Haji Shazli, awareness on mental health is still lacking in the country.

There were 2.6 suicide cases for every 100,000 in 2018 in the Sultanate and according to 2016 figures, 9,000 consultations (including 264 new cases) were recorded by Adult Psychiatry Services, she added.

This was shared at a recent mental health awareness seminar, themed ‘Enhancing Students’ Welfare and Harmony’, at Sengkurong Sixth Form Centre.

Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder; while the stigma or negative thoughts are the feeling of inferiority, being isolated, and avoiding assistance or treatment.

Dr Alia said that depression is a global problem and that a quarter of the world population is experiencing mental health issues.

Depression can result in suicide with suicide being the second highest cause of death for those aged 15-29 globally. The impact of depression is very serious and it is not normal if it persists for two weeks or more. One can take care of their mental health by taking adequate rest, healthy food, exercising, avoiding a risky attitude and maintaining a healthy social support network, she added.

Speaking on mental health among students, Dr Alia said that 20 per cent of children and teenagers worldwide have mental health problems. Bullying is related to the increase in mental health problems with the victim having increased stress level, lack of concentration and an increase in unhealthy risky attitude.

Sources of stress among children and teenagers are personality problem (not achieving high expectations), school environment, unconducive social surrounding and home conflict.

Symptoms of stress include being impatient, anxiety, loneliness, lack of concentration, confusion, sleep issues, loss of appetite, shivering and crying.

Ways to overcome stress are to identify the symptoms; love yourself; doing your best according to one’s capability; carrying out pious acts and reciting Doa; make realistic aspirations that can be achieved; be assertive and firm; conduct physical activities and exercise; manage time wisely; share problems with family members, friends or counselling teachers; and think positively.

Meanwhile, bullying is related to the rise in mental health and the involvement of parents is crucial to ease the issue. This can be via care and love; giving the opportunities to play with other siblings; building self-confidence; ascertaining safer environment; and enhancing durability of their children.