Sempena Mental Health Action Day this May 18th, I’m glad to report that I took action! I reached out to Dr. Shermaine Sim, a Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Consultant at UNICEF Malaysia and decided she’d be the best person to answer all the mental health questions yang paling laris di Malaysia. I know this trend slalunya seleb je yang buat, but I thought it’d be a fun way to answer all these Qs yang maybe we’re a little too shy to ask IRL.
Now before we get into it, can I start by saying Dr. Shermaine is like OBJECTIVELY the coolest doctor ever!!! She literally said her top priority is “to make sure kids and teens have good mental health and psychosocial support to help them be their best selves.” Not only that, she said yes to doing this interview in a heartbeat and was also so honest and non-judgmental with her answers <3
Okay, without further ado, ni dia the answers to Malaysia’s most searched mental health questions:
Is Mental health ….
Q: Is mental health important?
Dr. Shermaine: Of course! Taking care of your mental well-being can help you feel happier, more confident and better able to handle whatever life throws at you.
Q: Is mental health more important than physical health?
Dr. Shermaine: Both mental health and physical health are equally important. They’re like two sides of the same coin, and taking care of both can help you feel your best. Think of it this way – taking care of your physical health can help you feel good in your body, while taking care of your mental health can help you feel good in your mind.
Q: Is mental health important for students?
Dr. Shermaine: Mental health is very important for students! School life can be really stressful, because you are often juggling multiple responsibilities, like attending classes, studying for exams, and participating in extracurricular activities. The pressure to perform well academically can be overwhelming!
There may also be peer pressure and conflicts with friends. When you’re not well mentally, it can be hard to concentrate and be motivated. So taking care of your mental health can help you manage the stress and stay focused on your studies.
Q: Is mental health (mental illness) the next pandemic?
Dr. Shermaine: Mental health issues have always been present, but they haven’t received as much attention as physical health until the current COVID-19 pandemic. The increased awareness of mental health issues now presents an opportunity for us to better prepare for the next pandemic and future crises. This includes improving access to mental health services, increasing mental health literacy, and creating more supportive environments at home, in schools and in our communities.
Is Anxiety ….
Q: Is anxiety a normal human emotion or is it mood disorder?
Dr. Shermaine: Anxiety is a normal response to challenging situations, like exams or presentations. But when it gets too much and affects your daily life, it might be an anxiety disorder; which is not a mood disorder, but a mental health disorder that causes excessive worry, fear, and nervousness. Even though it’s not a mood disorder, it can still impact how you feel.
Mood disorders, on the other hand, primarily affect a person’s emotions, causing significant changes in mood and energy levels. These changes can last for weeks or even months, and can interfere with your usual routine and activities.
Q: Is anxiety same as stress?
Dr. Shermaine: Stress and anxiety are related but not the same thing. Stress is a normal response to a challenging situation, but prolonged stress can lead to physical and mental health problems such as feelings of anxiety.
For example, if you have a big exam coming up, you might start to feel stressed about it. These feelings are normal but if they are not managed well and become excessive, they might develop into anxiety. You might start to worry disproportionately and experience panic attacks and struggle to carry out your daily activities. In this case, the stress that started out as a normal response would have developed into an anxiety disorder.
Is Depression ….
Q: Is depression real?
Dr. Shermaine: Depression is very real and is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors that can affect individuals from all walks of life. Studies have shown that depression is associated with changes in the brain’s neurochemistry and neurocircuitry, including imbalances in neurotransmitters. Depression is not a weakness, weak will, lack of mental strength or personal failing but a medical condition that requires proper diagnosis, support and treatment.
Annnnnnd there you have it! (I told you Dr Shermaine was amazing kan. Everyone say thank you doctor!)
To wrap up this article, I just want to remind everyone that mental health struggles are so real and nothing to be ashamed about. It’s important to remember that “its okay to not be okay”. And it’s equally okay to reach out for help so that we can jadi okay again!
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety or simply feeling overwhelmed and stressed, organizations like Talian HEAL 15555 and Befrienders offer free and confidential support to individuals in need, and can provide a listening ear, resources, and referrals to professional help too. Please please please jangan segan to ask your mental health questions and know that you’re not alone <3