The journey of a person suffering from mental illness is not an easy one. With mental health problems rising globally, even before the impact of Covid-19, this is surely a time for dismantling taboos and reaching out with compassion.
Mental health relates to a person’s well-being. Mental health problems reduce a person’s capacity for joy by affecting their quality of life, sense of happiness and family and social relationships. As these break down many people turn to unsafe behaviours, alcohol or substance abuse, retreat into isolation, react with violent and disruptive behaviour and even attempt suicide.
Mental health problems are a growing public health concern. They affect the way we feel, think and behave, and because the numbers have increased so quickly in recent years they have huge implications on the cost of healthcare and lost revenue. Sadly most of us know someone who has experienced depression or anxiety and may ourselves suffer from one of these conditions during our life-time.
Although mental illness is a great equaliser affecting all people in all countries, Asian communities have been traditionally reluctant to seek help.
Keys issues that hold people back are fear of censure, shame and isolation. Feeling embarrassed is not uniquely Asian but western or International models of mental healthcare prioritise the individual making it easier to seek help. Asia Pacific countries with more family orientated cultures mean that the value of individual well-being sometimes loses out against a perceived loss of family or collective status.
It is important therefore that we all do our bit to challenge out-dated taboos and offer care and compassion to those who seek or may need professional care.
It is encouraging to see a growing awareness of mental health issues in Malaysia and Singapore, not least because the numbers of people presenting with depression, anxiety and other mood disorders have increased significantly over the last decade. Nonetheless, there is a welcome change of attitude amongst people in Asian countries, supported by government initiatives, NGO activities and better access to information.
Remember to speak out a little if you notice someone suffering in silence or being pressurised to remain quiet or hidden. Mental illness does not go away because you ignore it. Often the individual who does not seek treatment and tries desperately to get on with their life is suffering in silence. An unfortunate consequence is that they may live many years in isolation and fear only to seek help when the symptoms have become unbearable and the problems entrenched.
What can we do to help? More importantly, how can we challenge the stigma surrounding mental health in our Asian community?
1.Recognise Your Hurt
The first step towards recovery is to acknowledge your emotional wounds. Although it may be difficult, it is vital to be honest with yourself if you are currently feeling overwhelmed or emotionally out of your depth.
This may be a consequence of life or you could be facing a mental health issue. A good friend or a therapist can help you find the courage to work things through. Remember that you do not need to be afraid to feel intense emotions. They are a simple part of the process of accepting yourself, recognising your mental challenges and listening as your mind lets you know that you need help.
People often feel overwhelmed by the thought of seeking treatment. Many worry about the stigma of saying they need help whilst others worry that visiting a therapist means that they might be crazy. In fact, it takes a huge act of courage to admit that you need help and great insight to act on this.
And you are certainly not alone. There is a high prevalence in both Singapore and Malaysia and throughout Asia of common mental health disorders. One in seven individuals in Singapore reports mental health problems during their lifetime. The top three mental health conditions are major depressive disorder (one in 16 people), alcohol abuse (one in 24 people) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (one in 28 people). In Malaysia, mental health issues are the second-largest healthcare problem after heart diseases.
What is it like talking to a therapist?
Talking to a therapist is often much less scary than you might think. It is like opening up to a kind stranger who is trained not to judge you and committed to helping you work things out. Most people experience a deep relief when they can finally stop bottling things up or hiding how they really feel.
A therapist will not tell you what to do. Their job is to help you work out the best course of action for you. Some people will need to see a psychiatrist to help manage their symptoms but a great many problems can be addressed with a therapist by simply talking things through.
Don’t let the fear of being labelled with a mental illness prevent you from taking responsibility for your own mental health. Wanting to seek treatment does not mean you are weak. As a matter of fact, a therapist can help you regain confidence and overcome personally destructive behaviours.
3. Choose Compassion Over Judgement
It is human nature to question and judge things that we do not understand.
If you are uncertain about how a treatment works you can always call and speak to a therapist. Most therapists will spend a few minutes talking to you and answering questions. It is common to be nervous and many therapists will understand your concerns and help you by explaining the treatment and even your worries about visiting a therapist.
If a friend or colleague is considering therapy, it is important to be supportive. There is no magic formula that is effective; but compassion instead of judgement goes a very long way.
4.Speak Out Against Stigma
No matter how small you think your voice is, you still have an impact on those around you. Whether it be sharing your journey with mental health on social media or educating your friends about the importance of mental health care, your voice can inspire someone to muster up the courage to seek help.
LSCCH Therapy Centre : Officering kindness in a time of trouble
Therapy can help to improve many of the symptoms of mental health conditions. Sometimes it takes just one session, but it can take longer. The skills you learn during your therapy will help you cope with the current situation and for years to come.
With over 200 years of collective experience, LSCCH Therapy Centre can help you identify the root of your problems and provide the steps to tackle them one at a time. Recognised as an international platform, LSCCH Therapy Centre brings together a team of professional and caring clinical hypnotherapists, psychologists, doctors, psychiatrists and psychotherapists all invested in helping you navigate your way towards better health.
You know that you need a little help when you feel overwhelmed and tearful, exhausted all the time, no longer interested in your past-times and hobbies, socially isolated, disproportionately angry or resentful, worried all the time or just hopeless.
The LSCCH therapy team is equipped to help with a wide range of workplaces to personal problems. To learn more please complete the form and book a session with us.
Remember only by seeking help, can we dismantle the age-old stigma and truly experience the positive impact therapy can make.
Sheila Menon is the Principal of the London College of Clinical Hypnosis (Asia-Australia). She has over 20 years of experience as a clinical hypnotherapist and is a Fellow member of the British Association of Medical Hypnosis and the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis. Working as a lecturer in London and Asia, Sheila is also a regular contributor on BFM 89.9 Radio Station and for Shape Magazine.