Crucial to address mental health

Dr Syarifah Hafizah speaks during the session.

KUCHING: Addressing mental health throughout the different stages of life is crucial to preventing mental illness from setting in.

According to Dr Syarifah Hafizah Wan Kassim, consultant psychiatrist at Sentosa Hospital, during the early years of childhood and youth, education and the inculcation of values were crucial, instead of focusing solely on academic performance.    

“We need to look at how they manage emotion, which is called emotional regulation, and also work on mental health promotion and the prevention of mental illness,” she stressed.

She said this during an online session ‘A Dialogue on Mental Health: Meeting the Needs of Greater Sarawak’ organised and livestreamed by Mental Health Association of Sarawak (MHAS) via its Facebook page on Saturday (Oct 16). The session was moderated by MHAS Miri branch chairperson Dr Bawih Inu Pu’un.

With regard to parents, she said they should try to understand their children and the younger generation better. 

 “Before a couple gets married, they should undergo a marital course where they can be trained in communication skills, stress management, and how to handle a crisis if it occurs.

“Apart from this, they need to learn about parenting as parenting skills are crucial. A lot of people think parenting comes naturally and that they do not need to go for a course. But it is different; now, children are of a different generation from us,” she said.

For the working population, Dr Syarifah said there should be stress management, support from employers, and psychological first aid.

As for the elderly, she said common mental health issues seen in this group were isolation and loneliness.

“There is also loss and grieving as some have lost their spouse or their children have moved away from them to study or work, especially those in the rural areas.” 

She said self-care and community care also played vital roles in mental health.

“Everyone must know about the techniques of self-care and also know their emotions. It’s okay to not be okay. People in the community need to support and take care of each other as well,” she said, explaining that community included family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, and others. 

She also emphasised the importance of collaboration between healthcare services and various relevant agencies, such as the Social Welfare Department, Ministry of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development, police, non-governmental organisations, and so on.

“Through these partnerships, we can pool our human resources and funding so that we can enhance accessibility and better address the needs of the particular community,” said Dr Syarifah.