The topic of physical health and medical insurance is a serious topic that we deal with a lot here, but it’s also important to talk about mental health.

In recent times, mental health has become a talking point in the country, with the latest statistics from the 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey indicating that mental health issues such as depression have been identified as one of the major health problems among Malaysians by the year 2020, affecting almost 1 in 3 of the rakyat.

The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasized mental wellbeing, in its statement that when we are in good mental health, we experience a state of wellbeing in which we realize our own potential, cope well with the normal stresses of life, work productively, and contribute to our community. 

Mental health has a very direct and immediate impact on our physical health. Poor mental health affects the ability to make healthy decisions which could eventually lead to critical illnesses. It’s not just lifestyle based either, there are studies which have proven mental health can affect physical health biologically. Depression and stress was found to be able to weaken the immunity system, causing individuals to get sick easier and for longer.  An Australian study, found that acute emotional triggers caused as much as a 9.5 fold increase in risk of triggering a heart attack.

However, an alarming portion of the population still has inaccurate perceptions towards mental health.  Some consider mental illnesses to be faked as an excuse to shirk responsibilities, others perceive it to be a sign of weakness, and there are even those who view them as a sign of supernatural disturbances. Perhaps it is the combination of all these perspectives which carry heavily negative connotations about mental health problems that make it such a taboo subject in Malaysia. Ultimately, it can be chalked up to mental illnesses not being well understood and the instinctive response to the unknown is fear. 

So what can we, as Malaysians, do to create a society that is without stigma for those in need of help?

Mental illnesses can be a tricky area to navigate and even those who have good intentions might feel intimidated by it, so they might avoid trying to help so as to not do more harm than good. If somebody comes to you to talk about how they have been experiencing difficult thoughts and feelings, you may worry about not knowing what the right thing to say or do is.  However, you don't need any special training to show someone you care about them. Just being there for someone and talking to them can help them feel supported and less alone. Here are some general guidelines of what and what not to do:


  • Listen without judgment
  • Give them the opportunity to talk and show that you are interested
  • Ask them how you can help
  • Offer to keep them company or support them in getting professional help if necessary


  • Don’t try to diagnose them if you aren’t qualified
  • Don’t dismiss or trivialize what they’re saying
  • Don’t pressure them or pry into things they’re not ready to talk about
  • Don’t make assumptions about their situation or monopolize the conversation
Of course, it’s also possible that you notice somebody who you suspect is struggling with mental illness but they refuse your help. What do you do then? Ultimately, you can let them know you care about them and that you’ll be there when they are ready. Check in on them now and then to show that you remember them and care about their wellbeing, but don’t force them to talk to you or force them to get help (assuming it’s not an emergency situation).



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