Lam Thye: Need to address mental health among youth in a changed world

PETALING JAYA: In conjunction with its first anniversary and World Mental Health Day 2018 on Wednesday (Oct 10), the Mental Illness Awareness and Support Society (MIASA) organised a forum titled "Young People and Mental Health in the Changed World".

The forum was attended by Malaysian Psychiatric Association patron, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye who had raised valuable points on mental health among young individuals in Malaysia and how to address the problem.

"The dilemma faced by young people today has greater social and economic implications with the increasing number of people diagnosed with depression, anxiety or other mental health problems," he said.

Malaysia now has more young people facing stress or mental health issues such as anxiety or depression due to life experience or environmental factors.

Lee said the challenges of studying, working, financial commitment, hope and family relationships were among the issues that burden the youth.

"This problem is not just happening in Malaysia but around the world when the current life expectancies cause depression, anxiety and other mental health problems among adolescents.

"Graduates, for example, are definitely looking for permanent jobs with lucrative salaries, cars and dream homes but real life does not always go as smoothly as hoped," he added.

Lee said although some young people who work are able to face the challenges and difficulties, others have to struggle with emotional and physical issues once they leave university or when they enter the realm of employment.

More worryingly, the ratio for mental health issues increased from one in every 10 students in 2011 to one in five students in 2016.

Lee pointed out that young people who are heavily influenced by social media feel pressured to live the lifestyle portrayed by their peers in social media.

He said they would compare themselves with others without realising that life is not always perfect and perhaps unrealistic to achieve such goals at a young age.

"We must take mental health issues seriously and how they have led to other problems such as physical bullying, cyberbullying and violent acts.

"All parties need to ensure that our children have a good balance in physical, mental and emotional aspects.

To address this problem, Lee said better mental health development programmes should be implemented in schools and more counsellors with psychological skills be placed in schools.