THERE is a stigma towards mental illness in Malaysia.
This prejudice prevents patients from seeking treatment.
Mental illness is a behavioural, cognitive action or belief that causes dysfunction in people’s life.
Gila, senteng and tiga suku are labels often used by society on people with mental health problems.
Destructive words like these will not help the persons to recover. They evoke feelings of shame or worthlessness.
Ideally, society shows love and support for persons with mental health problems, and not degrade them.
In Malaysia, one out of three is diagnosed with mental health problems, with the figure increasing every year.
Studies show that by next year, mental health issues will be the second highest health problem after heart disease.
Workers are affected by mental health issues if they are not treated immediately.
Research shows that stress may lead to deteriorating health and cause psychological disorders.
Employers should be alert to these incidences.
If not, workers’ performance will decline and affect the company’s productivity.
A survey conducted by an insurance company showed that companies incurred heavy losses due to the absence of non-productive workers.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said by 2030, mental illnesses could cost the country US$25.3 billion (RM105.47 billion) economically.
The initiative to address this issue is carried out under the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which aims to improve the quality of life of workers and their families by providing assistance and support in overcoming personal problems or difficulties at work, including workers with mental health problems.
The services provided include stress management, therapy for anxiety and depression, conflict management and counselling for drug abuse.
EAP provides a platform for employees to engage in consultation and counselling to discuss issues with experts.
In addition, EAP provides activities to reduce stress and anxiety among workers.
Now, only some companies offer mental health programmes, such as Shell, PWC and Telekom Malaysia.
EAP can help employees to work efficiently, hence improving companies’ performance.
The government needs to encourage companies by integrating the programme into the Employment Act 1955.
The act should be reviewed by the Human Resources Ministry as EAP corresponds with the guidelines set by the ministry, including emphasising safety and occupational health.
The least the government can do is to form more agencies — like MyBodyTalk, Centre of Excellence for Personal and Corporate Growth and Turning Point Integrated Wellness — which provide EAP to those in need.
AJDA NUHA AHMAD DANIEL
Institute for Research and Development of Policy, Kuala Lumpur