Reaching out to youths dealing with mental health problems

MMHA and IBM volunteers at a workshop with IBM consultants Claire Disney (fifth from left) and Susan Slocum (sixth from left). With them are MMHA president See Cheng Siang (fourth from left).

IBM and the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) are teaming up to reach out through social media to at-risk youths suffering from mental health.

This project underscores the recently released findings of the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 by the Health Ministry that 29.2% of Malaysians aged 16 and above (4.2 million out of 14.4 million) suffer from mental health problems.

The survey found that highest prevalence was recorded among teenagers between 16 and 19 years old. The project is also timely as the theme for this year’s World Health Day is “Depression, Let’s Talk”.

This consulting effort is part of IBM’s Impact Grant programme – a pro-bono initiative that provides consulting expertise and technology such as cognitive, mobile and social to support non-profit organisations in serving their stakeholders more effectively.

Leveraging expertise from its social media practice, IBM will work with MMHA to develop social media strategies to harness the potential of the digital world as a powerful tool for change.

The strategies will be aimed at enhancing public awareness of mental health and its related issues by enabling an alternative method to approaching individuals with worrisome symptoms or providing information to those seeking help.

“In teaming up with IBM for this project, MMHA will be able to use social media and the digital environment in an innovative way to manage mental health issues,” said MMHA president See Cheng Siang.

“The aim of the social media approach is to enable MMHA to disarm mental health stigmas, raise awareness of correct health information from reputable sources and aggregate conversations and connections, especially between young people, with others who are experiencing similar challenges.”

The project builds on a grant MMHA received in 2016 to utilise IBM Social Media Analytics – a monitoring tool that captures and consolidates insights from social media to analyse the opinions, interactions and conversation patterns expressed on Facebook, Twitter, online communities, forums and blogs to survey public perception surrounding mental health issues.

This analysis uncovered the potential of social media in destigmatising mental health and consequently, encourage those with questions or symptoms to reach out for help.

The findings spurred MMHA to strengthen its social media platform as a means to engage and share critical information on mental health with people who may not be inclined to openly seek help.

“At IBM, we aim to make a sustainable impact in our communities and we find this possible for the critical area of mental health by continuing to contribute our talent and expertise to enable MMHA to increase its social media engagement,” said IBM Malaysia managing director Chong Chye Neo.

“With this grant, we would have committed RM145,000 in technology and expertise as part of our commitment to make an impact in the proactive management of this health issue.

“The outcome will enable MMHA to better understand the social media behaviours of youths at risk and effectively increase engagement outreach,” she added.

As part of the Social Media Strategy & Planning Impact Grant for MMHA, IBM will use design thinking to visualise new approaches to social media campaigns related to mental health as well as formulate social media strategies that will be effective in engaging on mental health issues.

Following this, IBM will employ expertise within its social media practice to create an actionable roadmap to improve MMHA’s engagement on social media.

The roadmap will be implemented jointly in this first year by MMHA and IBM employee volunteers.

MMHA is a non-profit organisation represented at the Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council to the Health Minister.

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