KLANG: Depression is now the No. 2 disability in the world.
“It is expected to rank No.1 by 2020,” said Malaysian Mental Health Association deputy president and consultant psychiatrist Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj Chandrasekaran.
This means that depression has even overtaken disability due to cardiovascular disease, which is also on the rise globally, he added.
In Malaysia, the National Morbidity Survey 2015 found that 29.9% of the adult population have some form of mental illness. It was 10.7% in 1996.
“In just 20 years it has gone up almost three times,” Dr Andrew Mohanraj said in an interview in conjunction with World Mental Health Day yesterday.
As for the mental health of children aged between five and 15, the survey registered 12.1% as having issues.
Dr Andrew Mohanraj said this included cases such as conduct disorder, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity disorder, as well as depression and anxiety.
“It’s quite difficult to detect depression in teenagers because some of them could have turned morose due to hormonal changes or other aspects of growing up,” he said.
However, he was quick to point out a worrying increase in the suicide rate among young people with the primary cause being depression.
“When young people commit suicide, it does not necessarily mean that they want to die, they want to leave the world because they find their situations, in their perception, intolerable and without any other escape,” he said.
Befrienders Kuala Lumpur chairman Mary Raj said there has been “a drastic rise” in younger people contacting the organisation for help.
“The younger generation prefers sending e-mail rather than calling in and we have had a big increase in the e-mail we receive from them,” she said.
Last year, the organisation received 18,445 calls and 2,685 e-mail messages.
Of these, 44% of those who e-mailed were aged 30 years and below while 47% did not reveal their age.
Of those who contacted the Befrienders, 24% suffered from mental health issues while 17% had relationship problems.
Other callers, said Raj, faced family problems and job- or sex-related stress but on a much lower percentage than that of mental health issues.
Raj said they occasionally received calls from people on the verge of committing suicide.
“We keep the callers talking as long as possible, to lower the risk of them going ahead with their plan.
“For high-risk groups, we ask if we can call them back tomorrow and if they are willing to give us their contact numbers.
“We then make follow-up calls to find out if they are okay,” she said.