Zaliha: Depression And Anxiety Rates Highest In Federal Territories

High living cost, B40 households, urban poor, and interpersonal problems are the major reasons for mental health issues in the FT, says Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — The Federal Territories have the highest cases of depression and anxiety in Malaysia, based on a 2022 mental health screening conducted by the Ministry of Health (MOH), Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa revealed. 

The health minister said that the ministry conducted mental health screenings on 336,900 individuals and found that people living in the Federal Territories are depressed and anxious due to factors such as the high cost of living. 

Dr Zaliha said this in response to a follow-up question posed to her by Hulu Langat MP Mohd Sany Hamzan in Parliament today.

“In 2022, we conducted a total screening on 336,900 individuals. In those results, we found that the state with the highest rate of depression and anxiety is the Federal Territories. 

“So, people in the Federal Territories [Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya] have many problems. The neighbour of Selangor, yes.  

“Maybe I can add that the reasons for this are as we know, the cost of living in the Federal Territories is rather high, and there are many people from the B40 (bottom 40 per cent income) group, many are in the Territories, and we often encounter urban poor in the area, and [they also have] interpersonal problems,” Dr Zaliha said.

She described interpersonal problems as pressure from parents, and relationship issues with peers and friends.

Dr Zaliha said the MOH has taken many steps to overcome mental health issues faced by Malaysians, particularly among children, adolescents, and the elderly. 

The health minister stated that mental health issues affecting youths stem from various factors, including financial difficulties, interpersonal issues, substance abuse, and low self-esteem. 

The findings are consistent with the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHSM) 2019, which reported that 8.8 per cent of 424,017 children with mental health problems in Malaysia were from low-income or B40 income households.

About 11.9 per cent came from households with an income of RM 1,000 to RM 1,999, and 10.1 per cent came from households that made less than RM 1,000.

“Most of the mental health problems faced by young people, including teenagers and young adults, are influenced by social factors such as financial problems, relationship problems, risky behaviour, substance abuse, low self-esteem, and high expectations of oneself that contribute to high stress, anxiety, and depression,” Dr Zaliha said.

Dr Zaliha added that the ministry runs many initiatives to help young people deal with these problems. Amongst the initiatives carried out by the MOH are the “Minda Sihat” programme conducted in schools carried out with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to screen adolescents with mental health issues and create intervention.

The MOH is also in partnership with the MOE on a programme called “Program Ekspresi Anak Remaja Lestari” (PEARL) aimed at improving coping skills and resilience among students to deal with issues related to bullying or risky behaviours.

Additionally, the MOH is also working together with the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Malaysia to promote mental health through National Sports Day and World Mental Health Day.

Another collaboration is with the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development where “Let’s TALK Minda Sihat” campaigns are conducted, in addition to smart partnerships with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and MOH’s training of volunteers to ensure they are equipped with psychological support skills to promote mental health. 

The MOH is currently working on developing a dementia action plan and mental health components for the Elderly Health Services Action Plan 2023-2030 to promote mental health among the elderly.

“Apart from that, the MOH is taking the initiative to develop a mental health skills module and to work together with NGOs that support the elderly, such as the Yayasan Artis Veteran, Aktiviti Veteran Gombak Association, Minda Di Home Association, and many more.

“Training sessions are also being provided for elder caregivers who may be experiencing depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and are being conducted in collaboration with NGOs to strengthen the intervention aspect of mental health, especially for family members and elder caregivers,” Dr Zaliha said.

The minister said the MOH also provides programmes for government medical staff to receive consultations from MOH specialists, ensuring that their mental health issues are addressed and do not exacerbate.

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