FROM 1980 to 2013, the International Journal of Epidemiology carried out 174 surveys in 63 countries to determine the prevalence of common mental disorders.

The systematic review and meta-analysis revealed that one in every five respondents (17.6 per cent) met the criteria for a common mental disorder, and 29.2 per cent experienced a common mental disorder in their lifetime.

The study suggested that women had a higher rate of experiencing mood disorders (7.3 per cent, compared with four per cent among men) and anxiety (8.7 per cent, compared with 4.3 per cent), while men had a higher rate of experiencing substance abuse disorders (7.5 per cent, compared with two per cent among women).

In Malaysia, the National Health and Morbidity Survey conducted in 2011, which involved those between 16 and 60, suggested that 1.7 per cent (or 300,000 people) of respondents experienced generalised anxiety disorders, 1.8 per cent suffered from depression, 1.7 per cent had suicidal thoughts and 1.1 per cent had attempted suicide.

This means 12 per cent of Malaysians suffer from mental health problems.

This begs the question: what is mental health, and how important is it to a human being?

Mental health is an integral part of overall health. There is no good health without mental health. Health must be viewed in a holistic manner, comprising the physical, mental and social wellbeing of a person.

Mental health is a state of wellbeing, where a person understands his abilities, is able to cope with life’s normal stresses, can work productively and fruitfully, and is capable of making contributions to the community. Anything less may be a sign of mental health issues, and must be addressed immediately.

As with physical health, good mental health is a lifelong process. It allows you to react positively to shifts in life that are occurring, and will continue to occur.

Counselling, a collaborative treatment based on the relationship between a person and a counsellor, provides a way for individuals to feel at their best.

Those who suffer from mental health issues should seek counselling, as it offers a supportive environment that allows one to talk openly without being judged. Counselling is a safe haven where one can identify “roadblocks”, and change thought and behavioural patterns to be the best that one can be.

Tell-tale signs that a person needs counselling are:

HE feels overwhelming sadness and helplessness over a prolonged period of time; and,

HE feels that problems don’t seem to get better or resolved, despite efforts and help by family and friends.

People should also seek counselling when they find it difficult to concentrate on work assignments or carry out everyday activities, worry excessively or turn to substance abuse. Stress, while not considered a mental health problem, may be associated with anxiety or depression if it remains for a long time.

Life can be tough, but there certainly are ways to maintain mental wellness.

Being positive and mindful, practising meditation, keeping to a healthy diet, and having enough sleep and exercise are among the best ways to ensure good mental health. Social activities that connect you with others, self-help books and seeking professional help when needed keep your mental health in tip-top shape.

TERESITA M. GUTIERREZ,  programme director, Bachelor of
Psychology (Hons), School of
Psychology, Taylor’s University

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