Where you live most likely affects your mental health too.
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Research by Safe Space, a B2B2C digital mental healthcare provider, reveals that 1 in 3 Malaysians deal with mental health conditions, and are usually left feeling sad, worried, and worthless.
Within the whole country, rural regions in East Malaysia (including WP Labuan) experience the highest prevalence of mental health conditions at 43%, then shortly followed by the capital, Kuala Lumpur at 40%.
However, WP Putrajaya, Negeri Sembilan, Perlis, Sabah, and Melaka has the highest prevalence of depression in the country.
When asked, CEO of Safe Space Antoinette Patterson noted that these results were not surprising at all.
Higher stress, higher prevalence of mental health conditions
It should come as no surprise that more stress leads to a decline in mental health. In 2015, the Ministry of Health identified the prevalence of mental disorders among adults at 29%. This is a threefold increase in comparison with the 10% prevalence rate identified in 1996!
According to Antoinette, one of the key reasons for this sharp increase in mental health conditions is a higher level of stress.
Malaysia is transitioning from a middle-income to a high-income country, with rapid cultual and lifestyle changes due to vastly increased urbanisation and globalisation. With these changes come increased stress, which leads to more mental health conditions.
Additionally, there has been a much greater push for mental health awareness and discussions over the last decade. As a result, more people are able to recognize their own mental health issues and seek out medical treatment, which also led to increased reporting and identification of mental disorders.
So why does East Malaysia have highest rate of mental health conditions?
If rapid urbanisation is one of the leading causes of stress that leads to mental health conditions, then why does East Malaysia, which is underdeveloped, have the most issues with it?
Well, rural regions have poorer socioeconomic conditions, with higher unemployment rates leading to low income households. Naturally, unemployement and low income are also significant sources of stress.
Additionally, rural regions still have heavy stigma towards mental health, reduced access to general and mental healthcare, and instead often practices alternative care though religious practitioners or bomohs. All these contribute to an increased risk for the development of mental health problems.
So should people simply move to happier states?
According to the 2021 Happiness Index Study, Malaysia’s happiest states include Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, and Perlis.
If both urbanisation and underdevelopment contribute to mental health disorders, then why not just move to happier states?
Those living in the cities have much better access to therapists with the help of digital connectivity.Antoinette Patterson to TRP
To some extent, that would work, due to the lack of access in the rural regions of Malaysia. The freedom of conversations around mental health and adequate encouragement to seek help will also be beneficial towards a more positive state of mental health.
That doesn’t mean that a person’s environment is all that needs to be fixed, of course.
Anyone regardless of their background can experience mental health issues and there is a need to provide help to battle through it.Antoinette Patterson to TRP
Suicide has been the leading cause of death in Malaysia especially among the youth which explains the severity of the mental health situation in the region. Workplace mental health issues are prominent and they carry high economic costs to the country.
As such, Safe Space sees more opportunities to remove the stigma and focus on mental health literacy for Malaysia.
For more information, visit Safe Space’s website here.
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.