Don’t be afraid to seek help

Dr Bernard Ting

KUCHING: Despite the increasing need for mental health assistance especially during this Covid-19 pandemic, there may be many situations that could hinder people from getting timely help, said psychiatrist Dr Bernard Ting.

“Close and prolonged contact for psychiatric consultation may seemingly be a limitation, as social distancing is expected during this pandemic,” he said.

He said the pandemic had inevitably brought rise to many mental health issues, especially when people encountered adversities in their life, such as retrenchment, loss of income, sickness, and so on.

He said common mental health problems included depression, anxiety or panic attacks, adjustment disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, alcohol use disorder or other forms of addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and any conditions that significantly affect the quality of life including sleep difficulties, poor attention and concentration, and even suicidal thoughts.

“In general, young adults are more receptive to get psychiatric help, probably due to their better access to resources through media and they can make independent decisions when compared with teenagers and the older population,” he said when contacted recently.

Nevertheless, Dr Ting, who is also a medical lecturer at the Department of Psychological Medicine at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), said the community’s acceptance towards seeking psychiatric help remained low.

He said a possible contribution to this attitude may include religious beliefs and culture.

“Stigma, be it public stigma or self-stigma, could also stop the people from actively seeking help. Most people worry about being labelled as ‘crazy’ while some may have myths about mental disorders,” he said.

He said mental health issues are serious public health concerns, adding that most of the conditions are treatable with proper care and treatment.

“Do not be afraid to seek help, because you may only be helped when you try to look for it. If you are unsure of your condition, get early assessment and treatment from any mental health professional.

“You can make a difference to your life. Life is precious!” urged Dr Ting.

Meanwhile, clinical psychologist and lecturer Dr Chen Yoke Yong felt that public acceptance towards seeking psychiatric help for mental health issues had improved.

She said although the stigma still existed, it had reduced somewhat.

“Psychiatric issues have now become more common due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” she told New Sarawak Tribune.

She hoped for a more open-minded attitude towards psychiatric issues, adding that people could gain a better understanding on the matter by attending webinars, workshops, and talks.

“Those who need help can also call hotlines such as Befrienders or seek assistance from school counsellors. They can also talk about their issues with someone they trust and they may get a different perspective from them,” said Dr Chen.