‘Accept mental health as illness’


  • Nation
  • Friday, 21 Jun 2019

PETALING JAYA: Employers should include mental health illness into the health schemes for their staff, says Malaysia Psychiatrist Association president Dr Hazli Zakaria.Dr Hazli said presently, only a handful of Malaysian companies observed psychiatric condition as an illness.

“Some companies allow employees to claim depression treatment up to a maximum of two years. More acceptance is needed among employers to stop the stigma on psychiatric illnesses.

“They must realise that mental health is equally important and is everyone’s business,” he said.

Apart from low awareness, Dr Hazli said some concerns raised by employers were the lack of investigations and proof in the diagnosis of mental illnesses.

“Although mental illness can be complicated to understand, making the right diagnosis is simple.

“We have criteria and methods to determine whether a patient has a mental illness,” he said, adding that it was not easy to fake it.

Dr Hazli also said there should be universal insurance coverage for mental illness in Malaysia.

“There are cases where patients delayed getting treatment because of the high cost. If they’re treated early, patients can recover faster with a better outcome,” he said.

Dr Anasuya Jegathevi Jegathesan, who is the psychology programme director at Taylor’s University, said employers should not worry if such health benefits might be open to abuse.

She also said more talks on mental health at workplaces should be prioritised as a preventive measure.

Professional counsellor Loh E Laine from Enrich Counselling & Therapy Centre in Puchong also said work stress warranted mental health to be included as part of the health scheme for workers.

“Work stress contributes to the risk of maladaptive mental health conditions.

“However, many employers have yet to adopt such efforts due to the lack of resources and awareness on mental health,” she said.

Loh also called on insurance companies to provide coverage for mental illnesses.

“Mental health well-being should be viewed as ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’.

“Physical and mental health should not be seen as mutually exclusive,” she said, adding that efforts should begin with increasing awareness to reduce the stigma of mental health and proactively engaging in data collection and research on the implications.

On May 23, Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said mental health issues were on the rise and should be covered by insurance companies.

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