PETALING JAYA: A national survey has revealed that Malaysians aged 13 to 17 are critically suffering from mental health problems.
One in five are suffering depression (18.3%), two in five anxiety (39.7%), and one in 10 suffering from stress (9.6%).
The number of suicide cases among students may have something to do with our education system. The exam-oriented culture, which causes undue stress, not only affects students but teachers as well.
According to the Education Ministry’s Healthy Mind Programme (Program Minda Sihat) 2017, which had 284,516 students participating, 5,104 youngsters received intervention from their school’s counsellors.
Of the number that sought counselling 14 were referred to a hospital or health clinic.
The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2017, conducted by the Health Ministry’s Institute for Public Health (IPH), found that the state of mental health among Malaysian adolescents had reached a worrying state.
The survey on students’ problems found that 50% of 120,420 students faced personal problems that included exam stress, 29% faced family problems, 11% faced issues with friends, and 10% faced problems with their teachers.
Suicidal behaviour among teenagers increased since NHMS 2012, with the highest suicidal behaviour recorded among Form 1 students.
NHMS 2017 also revealed that adolescents, aged 13 to 17, suffered from mental health problems.
Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said the ministry was finding ways to reduce examination stress faced by students.
The Education Ministry, together with the Health Ministry, carries out the Healthy Mind Programme for secondary school students.
Among the objectives of the programme is to encourage mental health awareness to identify stress, anxiety and depression levels among schoolchildren.
Students found to have mental health issues are given intervention programmes while those with critical issues are referred to psychiatrists.
As of February 2018, there are more than 10,000 teacher counsellors placed in government schools. Teachers can also seek counselling services at the district education offices.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Counselling Centre director Dr Zulfikar Ahmad advised parents not to put unnecessary pressure on their children sitting for examination as this could stress them and end up with poor performances.
Dr Zulfikar advised parents to regularly monitor changes in behavioural patterns of their children as examinations are nearing as these could be the tell-tale signs that their children were having problems with their studies.
He said among the obvious clinical signs included isolation, loss of appetite and changes in their normal routine, adding that parents should spend more times with their children to know them better.
National Union of Heads of Schools Malaysia president Wong Shee Fatt said teachers were stressed as they had to keep up with the changes made in the curriculum, test paper marking, administrative work and more.
“This comes on top of teaching and planning daily classes,” Wong said.
“The public often think teachers only work half a day when classes are on-going.
“Teachers work the whole day,” he said, adding that preparing students for exams also created high stress levels among teachers.
He said school heads are also under pressure to carry out the orders given to them by the Education Ministry.
“In this current digital world, school heads would be receiving all sorts of directives via WhatsApp from the district and state education department, as well as the ministry all the time,” he said.