The Time To Advocate and Support Individuals’ Mental Health is Now

The state of mental health of any one country directly impacts its economic development and growth. Recent statistics, however, paint a stark picture of the number of individuals who have experienced mental health concerns. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that economic losses due to poor mental health between 2021 and 2030 is expected to reach USD 1 trillion. In Singapore, a country with a population of approximately six million people, it is estimated that one in seven people have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime. WHO has estimated that in 2020, approximately 100 million individuals in India suffered from depression and anxiety disorders. In the Philippines, depression is the leading cause of disability.

In these unprecedented times, Wynne Wee, Vice President of Asia Pacific, explains that providing mental health care and support is as much a benefit as it is a necessity. “Everything that affects our daily living, whether it’s practical, emotional or social in nature will have an impact on our personal wellbeing.”

The pandemic and its effects have been pervasive, and it’s no doubt that many of the issues causing poor mental health in recent times have tended to centre around COVID-19. Social relationships and work stresses caused by the pandemic continue to impact individuals. The level of intensity of such issues that individuals are experiencing have intensified than they were pre-pandemic levels. “A lot of issues which clients are calling in about seeking support are either caused by or triggered by the ongoing pandemic,” says Wee, “To go through something as severe as the pandemic for so long will have an impact on a person’s wellbeing and can be traumatising in certain cases.”

Stigma continues to be a predominant barrier for individuals seeking mental health support for many individuals across Asia-Pacific countries, which leads to many individuals waiting for prolonged periods before reaching out for support. “By the time individuals do reach out, things have already spun out of control,” explains Wee, “There is a notion that individuals are expected to keep their emotions to themselves and be resilient about it. We’ve observed that individuals will only reach out for support once they feel like they’ve reached breaking point. Seeking mental health support is still very much stigmatised.”

Organisations need to strive to create a culture that normalises wellbeing. If there’s one thing holding individuals back from seeking support, it is the fear of a negative reaction from those around them. Managers need to role model speaking out about the importance of mental health, talk about their vulnerabilities and create a culture of openness where other individuals are encouraged to do the same. It is also equally important for organisations to be proactive and let their employees know about the programmes and services they have in place to support their wellbeing, like the support they can receive through an Employee Assistance Programme.

Wee believes that we are still living in a society where people believe they need to present themselves as completely resilient and untouchable to any stresses or emotional difficulties which does not depict what the reality is like for most individuals. It is completely normal to experience blocks and hurdles on a personal and professional level. Striving for perfectionism is unrealistic, especially given the unprecedented times we are living and trying to navigate the uncertain road the pandemic has paved.

It is especially important that individuals now seek support since we are all going through a heightened level of stress compared to previous years. It is okay to ask for help. It is okay to not be okay. If progress is to be made around mental health, then organisations and individuals need to adopt a proactive rather than a reactive approach and not wait until the situation of wellbeing becomes dire before reaching out for support and creating support programmes.

As devastating as COVID-19 has been, the nature of the pandemic has shed light on the importance of mental health and has triggered individuals to think about their state of wellbeing now more than they have before. This is a positive change in the right direction, and with time, Wee believes that societies will become even more acquainted with wellbeing which will contribute to destigmatising mental health.

References

Institute of Mental Health. (2021). 1 in 43 people in Singapore had a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders in their lifetime. Retrieved September 6, 2021, from https://www.imh.com.sg/uploadedFiles/Newsroom/News_Releases/21%20May%202021_%20Prevalence%20of%20Schizophrenia%20and%20Other%20Psychotic%20Disorders%20in%20Singapore.pdf

ScienceDirect. (2021, January 3). Depressive symptoms among young adults in the Philippines: Results from a nationwide cross-sectional survey. Retrieved September 6, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666915320300731

World Health Organisation. (2019, January 3). Mental health in the workplace. Retrieved September 6, 2021 from https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/mental-health-in-the-workplace

Disclaimer: This document is intended for general information only. It does not provide the reader with specific direction, advice, or recommendations. You may wish to contact an appropriate professional for questions concerning your particular situation.