Demand for mental health care is increasing
PETALING JAYA: As the Covid-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on people’s mental well-being, concerned healthcare professionals are seeing a growing demand for help to cope with issues such as stress, depression, anxiety and relationships.
With the Department of Health reporting that mental health support needs in the first four months of this year have exceeded what is required for all of 2020, experts said the state of mental health in this country was indeed worrying.
Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr Hazli Zakaria, who is also president of the Malaysian Psychiatric Association, said mental health services in the private sector increased by around 30% to 50% when ordered. movement control.
“Despite the MCO, we still have to open the clinic because our slots are full, and it is in the private setting.
“I’m pretty sure that in the public sector as well, the number of people seeking mental health help is increasing,” he said.
The most common problems were with anxiety disorder and depression, Dr Hazli said, adding that changes brought on by the pandemic such as job loss, social distancing and working from home have contributed to the increase. stress levels.
“Many clients come from sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, such as tourism, hospitality and aviation,” he noted.
Now, as Malaysia registers more deaths from Covid-19, he said those mourning the loss of loved ones would need more mental health support as their grieving process was worsened by further news norms like the inability to be with them for their last moments or even attend their funeral.
With the country having just over 400 registered psychiatrists for its 32 million people, Dr Hazli said there was also a need to further support these doctors as well as first responders and counselors who provide psychological support. to people.
Certified counselor Jamaida Jamaludin said there was a high demand for teletherapy or virtual counseling services during the pandemic, adding that she was seeing between seven and 10 clients per day via WhatsApp.
Jamaida, who works full-time as a counselor for a government agency, started offering her services from March 2020 after seeing a sharp increase in the number of people in need of mental health help.
“The most common problem I encounter is with marriage; if I get 10 cases a day, six of them relate to marriage and the rest to mental health issues.
“Most of the issues around marriage have been in the relationship for a long time, but during this particular OLS those issues are exploding like a bomb,” she said.
For her married clients, there were many issues with miscommunication, infidelity, long distance relationships, finances, as well as mental and physical abuse.
Jamaida noted the high number of people with poor mental well-being during OLS.
“In fact, I got a phone call from a suicidal 14-year-old teenager showing that people of all ages are affected,” she said.
She added that last year, with the switch from classes to online learning, she also received many calls from college and school students as well as parents who were not mentally coping with the changes.
“Another problem that I commonly encounter is related to working from home, I can see Malaysians still have a hard time getting used to it. For these clients, I try to help by preparing a suitable schedule for them.
“Overall, I can see that people’s stress levels were sky-high during the OLS,” she said, adding that mass media such as television should do more to promote the existence of virtual counseling services during this time. Jamaida said she had many clients who contacted her for help after suffering in silence for many years, not knowing where to look for free counseling online .
For therapist Lisa Sum, of the nonprofit Agape Counseling Center Malaysia, in 2020 and 2021 so far, most of her clients have sought help with emotional issues involving families, relationships, and others. health.
The second most common was marital issues, followed by psychological issues, Sum said, adding that they also received more calls during the AGC, with clients of all ages, from children to adults.
Sum, who practices expressive therapy, said that to improve the mental well-being of Malaysians amid the overwhelming pandemic, a holistic approach was needed in which people needed to nurture their spiritual, mental and physical health.
“Outlets that help people relieve stress such as gyms and natural attractions like beaches, mountains, nature parks and resorts are all currently off-limits to visitors, so people don’t have to. no ability to unzip while locking.
“If possible, places like these that help improve people’s mental health should be opened under a strict standard operating procedure.
“There is so much fear and grief that grips the nation due to the deaths and the loss of freedom. The mourning has remained and we need an outlet to express ourselves.
“We have focused on managing the pandemic, but we also need to promote mental health well-being,” Sum said, adding that preventive measures to avoid more mental health problems were needed.
She said clients often come to them for help when it is too late to take preventative measures and they already have no choice but to take medication.
The public can also turn to the Befrienders.