Are Malaysians Coping Mentally with the Stresses of Modern Life?

THE World Health Organization defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Emotional well-being is central to our good health in today’s world where mental and physical diseases are linked to our inability to cope with the stresses of modern living. Mental diseases and diseases related to stress are shooting up in urbanised societies.

Mental illness is expected to be the second biggest health problem affecting Malaysians after heart disease.

According to the latest National Health and Morbidity Survey, 30% of adults aged 16 years and above in Malaysia suffer from some form of mental health issues.

The prevalence of mental health issues in Malaysia has tripled from 10·7% in 1996 to 29·2% in 2016. In Singapore it is about 60%. An average of 7 Malaysians commit suicide each day.

Heart diseases, cancers and other diseases which are linked to poor emotional health are the leading killers today. Negative emotions are linked to poor physical health.

Anger raises cholesterol levels and heart attack risks by 300%. On the other hand optimistic people live 19% longer than pessimists. All of us (including children) can be taught emotional resilience, selfcontrol (the lack of which leads to much mental illness), the habits of optimism and handling negative thoughts, and much more which are covered in this book.

This is important as suicides, depression and hyper-anxiety among schoolchildren around the world have reached epidemic levels.A study of US undergraduates found that 45% of them showed serious signs of depression. Schools and institutions of learning do not teach students coping skills and skills for developing emotional well-being. Our children are not taught how to master their own minds, emotions and bodies, which is not only about avoiding stress, but also how to cope with it.

In the West, the trend in schools now is to teach these skills. Psychologically healthy schools, workplaces and society will enhance academic performance, economic productivity and create a happier society in general.

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