Bru-HIMS data for year 2021 revealed that 1,515 individuals were diagnosed with anxiety disorder and more than 900 individuals also experienced depressive disorder.
This has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has a vast effect on mental health, said Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar in a message to mark World Mental Health Day 2022 today.
Themed ‘Make Mental Health and Well-Being for All a Global Priority’, it highlights the importance of mental health, particularly due to challenges in the past few years – COVID-19, conflicts, resource scarcity and inflation.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham also said the Ministry of Health (MoH) is set to launch a Mental Health Action Plan for Brunei Darussalam, which is an important step to emphasise the Sultanate’s commitment to mental health care.
The action plan, he said, aims to fulfil World Health Organization’s (WHO) Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030 to ensure that mental health will be given appropriate attention globally.
The minister said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on mental health.
“Globally, routine health service including mental health services were impacted during the outbreak,” he said, adding that Brunei was not an exception.
He said in the beginning of the second wave last year, Talian Harapan 145 received 1,058 calls in two months compared to an average of 445 calls per month in 2020.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said COVID-19 caused an increase in stress as well as high levels of anxiety and depression, affecting one in four individuals during the first year of the pandemic.
He said children and teenagers had their learning affected because they could not attend school physically and were discouraged from meeting friends and family from different households.
“This affected vulnerable groups, such as victims of domestic abuse with increased isolation and had difficulties accessing assistance during the pandemic,” he said.
With global uncertainties, including income insecurities, there’s an increased risk of mental health issues like stress and emotional distress.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham reiterated that mental health in workplace should be given priority.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), as many as 12 billion working days are lost every year due to depression and anxiety in the workplace causing global economic losses of around USD1 trillion.
“Mental health well-being also affects individuals’ performance and productivity. Unsafe or bad working environment, unhealthy work relationship and unemployment can contribute to poor mental health or worsen existing issues,” the minister said. “Discrimination of gender, age, race and disabilities are also contributors to mental health issues in the workplace.”
He believed that organisation intervention is needed to prevent mental health risks in the workplace including training managers to prevent stressful workplace environment and care for employees experiencing stress.
The minister said, “It is time to ensure that mental health and well-being become a global priority. This includes doubling efforts to increase awareness on the importance of mental health care and reduce the stigma on topics relating to mental health.
“Therefore, in conjunction with World Mental Health Day today, the ministry and stakeholders will organise activities and events to increase public awareness on the importance of mental health through workshops and roadshows.”
The minister also encouraged Brunei citizens and residents to prioritise mental healthcare by carrying out beneficial activities such as exercising together. Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said, “We need to allocate time for oneself by carrying out relaxing or spiritual activities, such as Zikir or meditation, regularly. Reducing social media usage can help with mental health while learning new skills can also build confidence and strengthen mental health.”
The minister reminded to the public that Talian Harapan 145 is available as a mental health crisis hotline as well as a source to obtain mental health service, and encouraged all to unite and help to increase mental health awareness and help one another by supporting those with mental health issues.