LAST_UPDATEWed, 20 Jun 2018 8pm

More Malaysians Will Experience Mental Illness By 2020

More Malaysians will suffer from depression as a developed nationMore Malaysians will suffer from depression as a developed nationIF you are reading this and are approaching the age of 40 - chances are you are going to make up the 10% of Malaysians to suffer from some form of mental illness come 2020.

The daily stresses of modern society - which are mostly connected with financial problems (due to the ever rising cost of living) - is about to get worse when Malaysia become a developed nation.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that depression (a mental illness) will be the second form of health problem affecting those aged 50 and above after heart disease. 

“Generally, those aged 50 and above will experience emotional, personality and character change, and decline in mind functioning,” said Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman, deputy director-general of Health (Public Health), at a seminar held in conjunction with World Mental Health Day in October.  

Depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 350 million people affected. Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life.

Especially when long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition.

It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Suicide results in an estimated 1 million deaths every year.

Even as a developing nation today, there is already an alarming rate in the number of suicide cases in Malaysia, with 60 people commit suicide every month in the country, according to the National Suicide Registry Malaysia.

The Health Ministry announced that more than 1,000 people have killed themselves over a 3-year period of 2007 – 2010.

What is even more alarming than the stats is the fact that more cases have gone unreported.

According to the 2011 National Health and Morbidity Survey, 12% of Malaysians aged between 18 and 60 are suffering from some form of mental illness.

Of the percentage affected by mental illness, depression made up 2%, psychosis 1%, worrying 1.8%, while the rest involved anxiety disorder, which is a chronic disease, and mild mental diseases.

There were more men than women, the gender ratio being 2.9:1 (males: females), and ethnicity-wise, Indians had the highest suicide rate of 3.67 per 100,000. The Malays and Bumiputera of Sabah and Sarawak had lower rates of 0.32 to 0.37 per 100,000.

"The onset of psychotic illness is 15 to 24 years of age for males, and 24 to 35 for females.

“The males normally start getting mental problems when they start discovering their identity. For women, the illness usually becomes apparent after they got married," revealed Hospital Putrajaya (HPJ) psychiatry department head Dr Azizul Awaluddin.

Depression is the second killer after heart attack Depression is the second killer after heart attack In response to the rising number of people diagnosed with mental illness, the Mental Health Community Centre was set up by the Health Ministry in November last year.

Located in Presint 11 in Putrajaya, the centre is the first of its kind in the country. It offers psychiatric community services which includes home visits so that patients are not confined to the hospital, but have the support of family and community.

In Malaysia, our health indices remain one of the best in the developing world. We have one psychiatrist to a population of 115,000, which is admirable, although ideally, as per the WHO recommendation, it should be one psychiatrist to a population of 50,000. 

With a total of 252 psychiatrists and 80 clinical psychologists, as well as four mental institutions and 48 government hospitals that provide psychiatric and mental health services, Malaysia is well prepared.

The theme of World Mental Health Day in 2013 is “Mental health and older adults” which highlights the role of the government, family and community in maintaining the mental health of this group by supporting them positively in preparing for old age.

The Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) provides tips in its website on ways to face the process of aging.

It includes staying physically and mentally active, having proper nutrition, regular medical checks as well as adjusting to a different role in old age.

It's only a few years before it's 2020, so you better get started.