KANGAR: Mental illness is expected to be the second highest form of health problems affecting Malaysians after heart disease by 2020.
Hospital Tuanku Fauziah Department of Psychiatry Head Dr Ruzita Jamaluddin said statistics on mental illness was worrying as in 2008, about 400,227 patients in Malaysia sought psychiatric help from government hospitals.
“In fact, that number continues to increase with 2,000 new cases of schizophrenia being reported every year. It is more alarming when the number of cases reported does not reflect the actual number.
“This problem is further complicated when there is a lack of knowledge among the public about the dangers of the disease, resulting in many not seeking treatment or just resorting to traditional medicine.”
Dr Ruzita said this when delivering a lecture on “Addressing the Stigma of Mental Illness” at a Healthy Mind Awareness Seminar to UniMAP’s heads of department at Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Library (PTSFP), Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) main campus in Pauh Putra, here, today.
She said depression was believed to be the leading cause of mental illness, where of late the local newspapers were often reporting cases of individuals committing suicide, jumping off buildings, and injuring themselves or others.
“Patients suffering from chronic depression which, among others, is caused by stress, experience hallucinations and have the desire to injure or kill themselves, if not treated immediately.
“Hence, this matter really needs the involvement and role of society in order to remove the negative stigma about mental patients and instead give them appropriate attention and an opportunity to stay within society and return to normalcy.”
Dr Ruzita said isolating them would aggravate their condition. “The disease takes a few months to three years to show changes in thinking, emotion and behaviour of the patient, so early detection is helpful in the recovery process and proper medication and treatment can help cure them,” she added.
UniMAP Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Zul Azhar Zahid Jamal, in his speech at the closing of the programme, said he believed that technological advances and sophistication of smartphones contributed to mental stress.
“Such advancements demand humans work 24 hours a day because information received through these advanced applications require immediate action,” he said, hoping the knowledge gained from the programme would help guide department heads of UniMAP to address the mental and emotional well-being of staff.