Build resilience, says Befrienders

Dr Bernard Ting.

KUCHING: The people should work on building their mental resilience in order to cope better amid the Covid-19 pandemic, said Befrienders Kuching secretary Dr Bernard Ting.

He mentioned that resilience is the main factor in powering through the Covid-19 storm.

“These people have the capacity to actually remain competent and functioning in facing all these due to their resilience.

“It is just like muscles whereby if you keep on exercising and training, it will take less effort for you to get over the emotional punches,” he said.

This, he said, is doable if the people try to see through rose-tinted glasses — always looks at a situation in a positive light or with great optimism.

“When you always try to look at the bright side, you will train your resilience to be even stronger than others,” he added.

He said this when speaking at a virtual talk titled ‘Mental Health During Covid-19 Pandemic and Our Growth’ held via Zoom today.

The talk, which some 200 people took part in, was organised by Sarawak Development Institute (SDI) and supported by KonferenceX (conference manager)

Mental health changes amidst Covid-19

Dr Ting who is also a medical lecturer at the Department of Psychological Medicine, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and also a visiting psychiatrist at Hospital Sentosa Kuching, noted that the pandemic not only shaped the new norm for physical interaction but also for mental health.

“A lot of times when people get anxious, they will experience muscle tension, fatigue, headaches, chest tightness as well as sleep and appetite disturbances.

“People would start panicking because they have to buy a lot of daily necessities and supplies and they start to worry about the future, schooling and work.

“Some also get angry towards the government for its way of dealing with the crisis, feeling guilty for not spending enough time with loved ones or even feeling guilty whether he or she might have spread the virus throughout their quarantine period as well as experience grief as they lost their families to the virus,” he said.

He said a person with mental health problems may find it difficult to think clearly, pay attention and remember while in terms of behaviour, they tend to cope using different ways such as addiction to social media, video games and binge-eating.

“Amidst the pandemic, the people also started to become more aware of their personal hygiene such as washing hands, as well as resorting to self-harm due to having negative emotions and thoughts,” he said.

Suicide

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 800,000 people die from suicide each year with an average of one suicide every 40 seconds.

Globally, suicide incidents are among the 20 leading causes of death for all ages and are one of three leading causes of death among those aged between 15 and 44.

In Malaysia, a total of 465 attempted suicide cases treated at the Ministry of Health (MoH) have been recorded from January to June this year.

Every suicide does not only affect the person, but it also affects at least 25 persons who are close to them.

Risks of suicide

Dr Ting also mentioned that although it might not be easy to identify whether someone is suicidal or not, there are signs and symptoms that are able to detect such tendency:

·   Eating and sleeping problems;

·   No interest in hobbies, work or school;

·   No effort in taking care of self-image;

·   Socially withdrawn;

·   Increase in substance or alcohol use;

·   Drastic behavioural changes such as low mood, giving away their belongings, leaving notes, etc.

What can you do to help?

Dr Ting said if one notices someone around them experiencing negative emotions, try to show concern and make room for emotional expression.

He also said one who wishes to offer help should do active listening without being judgmental as well as avoiding saying words like “I know”, which may lead them to feel like they are not ready to talk about it.

One can also offer help by accompanying and guiding the person to receive treatment from professionals.

“As the first step, you can pay a visit to the nearest clinic and get assessed by a doctor. Secondly, they will write a referral letter and help you get an appointment with a hospital which has psychiatrist services. From there, you can consult mental health professionals for treatment,” he said.

Anyone who wishes to seek help on mental health can contact Mental Health Association Sarawak (MHAS) at https://covid19.mhasarawak.com or Befrienders Kuching at https://sites.google.com/view/bfk-covid19-mco/home or give them a call 082-242800 from 6.30am to 9.30pm.