More mental health issues soon

PETALING JAYA - More Malaysians are expected to suffer mental health problems but treatment alone is insufficient to reduce this public health burden, according to the Health Ministry.

The ministry's Mental Health Unit public health physician Dr Nurashikin Ibrahim said as the country became more urbanised, Malaysians were facing more job-related stress, and a high risk of developing psychosocial problems.

She said among children and adolescents, loneliness, parental discord, poor parenting style, parents' mental health status and parent-child relationships could all contribute to their state of mental health.

"Generally, there has been an increasing burden of mental health problems over the past 10 years and it is expected to rise over the next 20 years unless measures are taken to address those issues," Dr Nurashikin told The Star.

She said other factors that could also lead to poor mental health were poverty, homelessness, unsafe environments, peer pressure and unemployment.

Results of the 2011 National Health and Morbidity Survey showed that 12 per cent of Malaysians aged between 18 and 60, suffered from mental health problems.

The survey also showed that the prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders among adults was 1.8 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively.

According to the World Health Organisation, depression is expected to be the leading cause of disability by 2020.

Dr Nurashikin said the Health Ministry was in the midst of developing guidelines on work stress management, adding that more allocations should be steered towards preventive measures.

"Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness," she said, adding that broad-based support was needed at all levels.