Asia’s Moment of Truth On World Mental Health Day 2020

Asia mental Health 2020 ChangeMakr Asia

Mental health has been a taboo for Asia for way too long. There is no better day to assess where we are and what we need to do than today, the world mental health day. 

World Federation for Mental Health, in their official announcement of World Mental Health Day has declared the theme of this year’s to be “Greater Investment – Greater Access, everyone, everywhere”.  
ChangeMakr Asia looks at how mental health issues in Asia have progressed and where we need greater investments for greater access. We also talk about resources you can use for better mental health for you and your community

Where does Asia stand on World Mental Health Day 2020 ? 

Is mental health Stigma in Asia less now ? 

We have made some improvement in how mental health is perceived in Asia over the years. The stigma on mental health issues, although it is still a serious problem, has lessened at least among younger generations. 
Traditionally, in Asia, mental health has not received the attention it deserved. Mental illness has been and is dismissed as weakness, laziness, or worse, as a punishment for sin. Emotionally unavailable parenting, patriarchal relationships, and ignorance about psychology have not helped the cause.
Ways you can positively parent and support your child's mental health
Good mental health parenting (credit : Children's Health)
The root of stigma and shame is the narrow cultural norms of what is ‘healthy” and “respectable”. These have traditionally been imposed by authority figures in society. The result is the judgemental “Asia culture” where expressiveness and openness is unacceptable. 
 
However, Asia youth are fighting back against this. There is a small but certain movement among young people to do away with the stigma. Initiatives like The Live Love Laugh Foundation and The Artidote are wonderful examples of such attempts. 
 

Is Mental Health Awareness Improving ?  

The general public knows more now about mental health than they used to. Awareness about illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and panic attacks is common. We see more discussion on trauma, stress, and burnout. We also see an increased attention given to suicide prevention.  
The increase in awareness has resulted in an increase in empathy. but much more needs to be done. We need to educate ourselves on many things. Empathy, active listening, and self-awareness come on the top of the list. 

Do More People Seek Help with Mental Health Resources Now ?  

It is heartening to see more people seeking help for mental health, even when they do not have a diagnosis. While many sadly do not (an sometimes cannot) seek care, at least among the more privileged, there is an increasing acceptance of seeking help. 
Many countries in Asia have a lack of qualified mental health professionals and resources. There is a lack of psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers trained in mental health issues. 
The communities in many countries, however, have come forward to what they can. Many Asian countries have had helplines and community support services like mental health for many years now. They provide a much needed service. It would be even better if we see more support groups coming to help with everyday mental health. 
how to find mental health resource professionals who understands your culture
How to find mental health professionals who understand your cultural background (Credit : NAMI)

What More Do We Need To Do For Mental Health in Asia ?

Make Mental Health Awareness Part of Education 

Most schools and educational institutions in Asia sadly do not teach mental health as part of curriculum. After the lack of formal education couples with the idea that mental health is only about illnesses, much of the public stays ignorant for life. 
Psychiatrist Dr.Samir Parikh was quoted in India Today that mental health curriculum in schools should have three components : 
  1. creating awareness about emotional wellbeing
  2. Encouraging help seeking behaviour 
  3. Life skills training : including critical thinking, empathy, assertiveness, and emotional awareness
While we wait for governments to make mental health awareness part of formal education, we can still self – educate ourselves. Check the section on mental health resources in this article to get started. 

Get Rid of Mental Health Stigma 

If Asia is to shed the tag of not caring about mental health, the stigma and taboos must go. While it is slowly but surely changing, there is a lot of work yet to be done. 
We need to make mental health an ‘ordinary’ topic. It should be part of our everyday conversations. 
ChangeMakr Asia contacted counselling psychologist Nivendra Uduman on what can be done. 

Talking about mental health and psychosocial issues in a non-stigmatising manner, using appropriate language, and ethical media reporting can contribute a great deal towards reducing the stigma, A powerful way to do this is to start this conversation in school. Conversations around self-worth, emotional intelligence, and coping skills is a great way to normalise speaking about mental health

Nivendra Uduman (Counselling Psychologist) Tweet

Make Workplace A Safe Space for Mental Health 

Mental health issues in the workplace don’t just take a toll on employees, but on the company as well.  
The true cost of lack of mental health resources at work
Cost of bad mental health at work (credit : WHO / World Bank Group)

Make Workplace A Safe Space for Mental Health 

While most companies recognise the need for mental health initiatives, not all of them implement them. For example, in Singapore, 70% of employers acknowledged the impact of mental  health. However, only 51% had programmes to address the issue. 
It is even more important that employees feel that the office is a safe space and a judgment free zone. 
We contacted business  psychologist Rozaine Cooray, on how employers can make the workplace a safe space for mental health issues. 

The buy-in leadership is important. Organizations should appoint socio-emotional leaders similar to wellbeing champions. They can check the pulse of the people constantly and can inform the leadership about the people's concerns so that better and more effective decisions can be made. Organisations should also create a system to frequently check on how employees are doing and to provide necessary support. During a time like this, organisations should bring about activities that foster collaboration. Times of crisis are the time for collaboration and a mindset for collective wellness

Rozaine Cooray (Business Psychologist) Tweet

Include technology in mental health Resources  

Once the Covid-19 lockdowns began, technology became the way to connect. Digital mental health and digital connectivity became a part of everyday life.
There is a great interest now in how to use tech for mental wellbeing. These include teletherapy and digital mental health tools. Many therapists and clients are finding teletherapy surprisingly effective during lockdown. Digital mental health tools continue to grow in popularity as well.
 
While there is a need to evaluate tech for mental health based on scientific evidence, technology should certainly be a part of making mental health accessible. They’re predicted to play a significant role in self-management of conditions. Systems to evaluate them are already being developed. 

Make Mental Health Resources Affordable   

Sadly, in many parts of Asia, money comes in the way of accessing mental health resources. Medication, therapy, and counselling are even more difficult to access when you have no money.
It is encouraging to see may community-based efforts to help people: community counselling and helplines for years to come

Mental health is a human right - it's time that mental health is available for all. Quality, accessible primary health care is the foundation for universal health coverage and is urgently required as the world grapples with the current health emergency.

Dr Ingrid Daniels (President, World Federation of Mental Health) Tweet
Also Read : 

Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. It is something to look after, to talk about, and is easy to practice every day. Here’s an easy toolkit to help you practice mental health self check.

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