A youth mental health book was launched yesterday by the Mind Matters Network, which is powered by the National Coalition for Mental Wellbeing Malaysia, at Brickfield Asia College (BAC) in Petaling Jaya.
The handbook entitled, Youth Mental Health in Malaysia, is co-authored by Dr Philip George, Dr Sabrina Fernandez and Sharrada Segeran. The book covers common mental health issues faced by youth, coping strategies, and resources to reach out for support.
Opening the launch, founding member of the National Coalition for Mental Health Datuk Bindi Rajasekaran, mentioned that the youth must be empowered to be able to handle the changes in the environment around us.
“We need to understand what goes on in the minds of the youth. We need to address the need of understanding the various emotions they might be going through instead of pretending it does not exist.
“The advice I give to those who are struggling silently is that you don’t have to struggle in silence, you must open up to someone about it, to get the help that you need,” the Rotary District 3300 Governor said adding that the book will provide adequate information and knowledge as well contact details of those who are ready to listen.
At the launch, a panel discussed issues pertaining to mental health among youth as well as the stigmas still attached to the topic.
Head of the psychology program at Veritas University College Vinorra Shaker said stigma was still one of the biggest hurdles to get over in order to get more people talking about mental health.
“We need to also move away from awareness which is quite significant in the country, to action which is lacking. As parents, educators and teachers, we need to move away from stigmas and treat it with more openness.
“Parents must ask the difficult questions to their children, they must make the time to listen and engage,” she said, adding that children can tell when parents are not “present” in the conversation.
We must normalise mental health discussions so it could be easy to talk about, she said.
Vinorra also said that the age of adolescence and youth have changed as more younger children are exposed to knowledge and technology.
“Kids of age 11 can already be considered adolescents.”
Youths have shifted to rely on their peers more than their own parents nowadays, Consultant Psychiatrist and Addiction Specialist Professor Dr Philip George claimed.
“Youth are in a transition phase and with that comes a challenging period in their life as they try to find themselves. They rely on their peers more in this period.
“The pandemic is a very concerning time for the youth,” he said that online bullying is also rampant as more time is spent online than before.
Being more advanced in technology also drives youth away from talking with their parents. They might feel alone when dealing with it without the traditional support system as families have also become smaller and busier with their daily life, he said.
Philip also touched on prejudices and stigmas in the field.
“The stigmas attached to mental health have resulted in a lack of professionals in the field. There is even a lack of coverage by insurance companies on mental health in Malaysia.
Third year medical student and co-author of the book Sharrada Segaran said the Pandemic spurred the high usage of the word, “depression”.
“It made me wonder how much the youth knew about mental health. That brought up the urgency of the youth understanding what it was and where to look for help, which the book does.
“Accessibility to this information must be enhanced as we expect a surge in cases as we move into post pandemic. We must reach out to the youth and we need more hands helping out with mental health,” she said, adding that more youth participation in government councils for mental health should be encouraged as they can provide a valuable insight into the minds of the youth.
CEO of the Make It Right Movement (MIRM) Brian Lariche, who is also the advisor to the Mind Matters Network, said MIRM was always a firm supporter for the cause.
MIRM, collaborates with over 250 national and global partners – governmental and non-government organisations and social enterprises – in championing worthy causes, and supporting more than 400 charities and community development projects annually.
MIRM hosted the venue for the book launch. The Mind Matters Network is also supported by the Rotary District 3300 Malaysia and the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA).