The HEALTH : May 2019 - Page 15

MAy, 2019 | The Health issue: mental health 15 The manageable can turn to severe Prof Dr Amer Siddiq breaks down mental health issues which can take a nosedive for the worse if left untreated I t has been shown that as of now, the number of Malaysians found to face mental health issues are on the rise. The three mental health issues found to be the most common among us is stress, anxiety, and depression. Compared to the more severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the three are considered to be more manageable. Yet, as awareness and stigma surrounding mental health issues in general still leaves a lot to be desired, these milder conditions can evolve into more severe ones. The harsh realities of mental illness Failing to cope with stress Prof Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin, Associate Profes- sor with the Department of Psychological Medicine in University of Malaya and a Consultant Psychiatrist at University of Malaya Medical Centre tells about how work-related stress, anxiety, and depression can indeed evolve into severe psychological disorders. Especially when the person experiencing it are not getting the help they need. “The most common symptoms of mental health issues are often stress and sleep disturbances, and these can be pre-cursors for someone to develop more severe issues such as anxiety disorders and depression,” says Dr Amer. The problem nowadays he says, is how we are not being taught proper stress management techniques. “People need a certain level of stress to function normally, however when these people are exposed to chronic stress, it can lead to distress. And people who are in distress would normally have problems coping because they don’t have the skills to cater to their mental well-being,” he explains. “We don’t normally teach people to manage stress, be it in school or university. Therefore as we are exposed to new technology and information, the levels of coping becomes lesser.” Dr Amer says that the demand to have our stress managed has increased, while the mechanism to help us actually managing it is insufficient. Continuous degrading of mental health can happen Individuals who are under a lot of stress and failed to manage it will then experience burnout. Burnout is a situation that mimics depression, in a sense that the individual will lose the appetite or interest to do things. Burnout however, differs to depression in one way. When the individual experiencing burnout are given time off from the activity, or are given a different task, they can fully recover from it. “But if you do not give these individuals the chance Dr Amer explains that stress can lead to depression, and depression can lead to a more severe mental health issue. to cope with their burnout, then it can evolve into mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety,” Dr Amer tells. As depression and anxiety sets in, it can then spiral further as the mental health worsens. “Depression, when left untreated, will foster the individual to start having suicidal thoughts. And could also develop into chronic mental state of psychosis,” he adds. The urgent need to get help Dr Amer stresses the need for individuals who are experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression to seek help quickly. Stress from overworking can be managed through time off and a change of task, while clinical therapy and consultation can effectively help individu- als with anxiety and depression to cope and recover. “It is the responsibility for doctors to ask their patients questions regarding their mental health, how- ever we as part of the general public should also make it easier for affected individuals to open up to their doctors about it. Identifying anxiety and depression at an earlier stage significantly magnify the effectiveness of treatment.” If you are feeling stressed out from work or studies, having anxiety attacks, and are feeling depressed – do seek help from your doctor. Psychology and psychiatry services has been made available in most public and private hospitals nowadays, therefore help is always available. — The Health What is depression? D epression in its clinical context refers to an individual experiencing depressed mood and are unable to enjoy day-to-day activities for a prolonged and sustained period of time. It often lasts for around two weeks or longer. At the same time, the individual will also have physical symptoms such as difficulty in sleeping, decrease or increase of appetite, having concentra- tion difficulties, psychomotor retardation in which they feel everything they are doing slows down and the body doesn’t seem to want to do what it should. They might also develop psychological symptoms as well. This is when they would have a pervasive feelings of doom and gloom. They feel hopeless, worthless, and guilty. This feeling is consistent and wouldn’t just go away in the period that the individual is in clinical depression. Prolonged untreated depression can lead to psycho- sis and suicidal thoughts. Depression can be visualised by the stages of a tree going through summer, autumn and winter. Summer is when the trees have leaves aplenty, similar to how a normal person feels. However when depression hits, our feel-good feelings waivers and dissolves just like the leaves leaving the tree in autumn. Chronic depres- sion is when the tree is in winter, totally without its leaves. Nowadays, thanks to research into exercise and efforts to highlight why it’s good for us, we tend to take our physical health and nutrition more seriously. However, the same cannot be said for our mental health. Sadly, there still exists the misconception that our mental health is inconsequential. We spoke to Anushia Subramaniam (pix), the Head Business Operations of the Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management (MIHRM) to discuss whether companies in Malaysia are embracing patient with mental health issues. Do patients with mental health issues face discrimination when it comes to employment in Malaysia? “Yes there are plenty of discriminations. Unlike countries like the US, UK and Australia, there are no existing anti-discriminatory laws in Malaysia to protect the rights of people with mental health illnesses. In most cases, employers may ask the potential employees to disclose pre-existing conditions which may have implications on their job performance. Hence if the said individual declares, then he/she is unlikely to secure a job,” explains Anushia. “Yes, the employers do take care of their employees but only in terms of medical and insurance benefits which are enough to cover the physical illnesses. They may come across mental health as a character weakness. There is also the issue of the employer finding out that the employee is seeing a psychiatrist. When this happens, usually an outbreak of gossip in the workplace often begins. A possible promotion or termination may occur, hence many employees opt not to take MC from a registered psychiatrist but rather take their annual leave instead.” Malaysia has a long way to go when it comes to a mentally supportive workplace. “Employers should take the in initiative to organise workshops on mental health issues for its employees conducted by registered Counsellors,” states Anushia. What are the existing financial support for people with mental health issues in Malaysia?  “Currently, Jabatan Kementerian Malaysia issues an OKU Mental card for serious mental disorders. Examples would be schizophrenia, bipolar and organic mental disorders.  Patients with this card are allocated: • RM150/month – for non-working individuals • RM300/month – working individuals The above OKU patients, are entitled to receive their parents’ pension (for those in the government sector) upon their demise. There is provision from PERKESO named Pencen Ilat for those with severe mental illness and are unable to work. However this scheme is only applicable if the said patient had previously contributed to PERKESO. Only individuals with certified letter from a registered Psychiatrist, are able to receive the benefits from the above mentioned.” — The Health